Today, Representatives of the parties to the Canadian Porcupine Caribou Management Agreement, including the governments of Canada, Yukon, Northwest Territories, Vuntut Gwitchin, Tr’ondëk Hwëch’in, the Gwich’in Tribal Council and the Inuvialuit Game Council came together to respond to the June 1 decision by the US Department of Interior to suspend oil and gas leases in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (the Refuge) pending completion of new, comprehensive analysis of environmental impacts.
The Canadian parties have long been concerned about proposed development in the Refuge due to the potential of irreversible impacts of drilling on the Porcupine caribou herd and their sensitive birthing ground habitat, and implication for Indigenous communities who rely on this important resource.
Together, the parties released the following statement:
“It is vital we continue to take action to conserve and restore our natural areas, biodiversity and recover species at risk. Throughout the environmental review process for the Coastal Plain Oil and Gas Leasing Program, we raised significant concerns about the program, and the process that was followed. These concerns remained unaddressed prior to and following the issuance of leases by the US government in the early part of 2021. This announcement from the US Department of the Interior acknowledges the inadequacies in the process.
“An adequate environmental review will assess the deficiencies we identified through our submissions and should include appropriate consultation with our parties, who collaboratively manage the herd and its habitat and represent the users of the herd in Canada. This aligns with the commitments made by the United States in the International Porcupine Caribou Agreement to protect the international Porcupine caribou herd, safeguard its calving grounds that are invaluable to northern Indigenous Peoples, and provide an opportunity for meaningful discussions about an acceptable path forward.
“Our position remains that drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge is not sustainable for long-term health of the Porcupine caribou herd. We remain committed to our goal of permanent protection for the sacred calving grounds for Porcupine caribou in this region of Alaska.
“We will continue to work with our partners in Alaska and the United States federal government to require adequate environmental review for activity in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge so that the Porcupine caribou herd and its habitat will remain protected now, and for future generations.
“President Biden has followed through on his commitments to assist us in our efforts. For that we commend his leadership and the support of his administration to ensure that due process will be followed, respecting the rights that are held by stakeholders and rights holders in Canada under international law.”
The Canadian parties attended multiple bilateral meetings and submitted comments in opposition of the oil and gas leasing program in the Refuge throughout the initial environmental assessment undertaken by the previous administration.
The current stay of litigation generated by Indigenous and conservation groups (in both Canada and the United States) expires June 11 and the current administration confirmed they will seek additional stays in litigation to support the new process.
Secretarial Order 3401, released on June 1, 2021, directs the US Department of the Interior to initiate a comprehensive environmental analysis to review the potential impacts of the oil and gas leasing program and to address legal deficiencies under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA). This could result in the current leases being reaffirmed, voided or amended to include additional environmental requirements.
Government of Canada
Press Secretary, Office of the Minister of Environment and Climate Change
Media Relations, Environment and Climate Change Canada
819-938-3338 or 1-844-836-7799 (toll-free)
Office of Minister of Environment Nils Clarke
Government of Yukon
Department of Environment & Natural Resources, Government of the Northwest Territories
867-767-9237, ext. 53230
Vuntut Gwitchin Government
Elaine Corden, Communications Coordinator
Tr’ondëk Hwëch’in Government
867-993-7100, Ext. 136
Gwich’in Tribal Council
Ken Kyikavichik, GTC Grand Chief
Inuvialuit Game Council
Dennis Arey, Chair
c/o Joint Secretariat-Inuvialuit Settlement Region