Compiled by Staff Writers
U.S. approves drilling in Artic refuge
Ignoring opposition from Ottawa, northern aboriginal groups and environmentalists on both sides of the border, the U.S. Senate has voted to open up the pristine Artic National Wildlife Refuge to oil drilling.
The move overrides an 18 year-old pledge by Canada and the U.S. to protect migrating Porcupine caribou herds from the northern Yukon.
Prime Minister Paul Martin has expressed Canadian opposition to drilling in the Artic refuge personally and by phone to U.S. president George W. Bush and Environment Minister Stephan Dion has had at least two meetings with White House environment officials on the issue.
Some hope remains for opponents though because the House of Representatives still must pass a similar measure in its upcoming budget bill.
Members there have been more adamant than senators in support of drilling.
Drilling supporters say the stores of crude oil would raise 42.4 billion US in government leasing fees, reduce U.S. reliance on foreign oil imports and create thousands of American jobs.
“We’re obviously disappointed,” said Jasmine Ponthky, a spokesperson for the Canadian Embassy in Washington. “We will continue to see what we can do to ensure the refuge remains pristine and an area where the Gwitchin people and the caribou herd can continue their way of life.”
The symbiotic relationship between the Gwitchin and the Porcupine caribou is believed to be at least 12,000 years old.
Chief Joe Linkletter of the Gwitchin First Nation in Old Crow, said the loss of the caribou herd would be akin to the loss of the buffalo from the Great plains in the U.S.
“When the caribou herd is threatened, our culture is threatened,” he said. “It’s the only culture we know.