Monday, April 18, 2005

Central Arctic Herd

The debate, or more like propaganda debunking going on ANWR News comments has hit a new low. This article by Ken Whitten a retired Alaska caribou biologist mentioned in my book is a case in point. The fallacy by the oil drillling supporters, the central arctic herd increased since development hence oil production is good for caribou. This is a false claim. Whitten says they specifically avoid the area as one would expect. The increase resulted from other factors such as good forage years, but they only traveled through the development later after calving elsewhere.

"Calving within the Prudhoe Field had already largely ceased by the time oil first began flowing south (Whitten and Cameron 1985). The dense network of pipelines, roads, oil wells, and production facilities at Prudhoe Bay also blocked mid- summer movements along the arctic coast (Whitten and Cameron 1983). Cow and calf caribou avoided the Trans Alaska Pipeline Corridor (Cameron et al. 1979) but continued to cross it successfully from late summer through spring, when calves were older and the herd was south of the intensely developed oilfields (Whitten and Cameron 1983)."

And concerning ANWR and the Porcupine Herd: "In determining whether to allow oil leasing within the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, Congress should consider that Porcupine Herd caribou are much more concentrated on their calving grounds than the smaller Central Arctic Herd. Although calving has occurred historically over a fairly large area of the North Slope in Alaska and the Yukon Territory, most calves are usually born in a smaller region that includes much of the area being considered for oil development (Fancy and Whitten 1991). During late June and early July, essentially all cows and calves and many bulls of the Porcupine Herd use the potential development area every year."

I bunked in the Whitten and Steve fancy in 1989 when they were conducting the study so I had the opportunity to discuss this with them directly.

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