Arctic drilling opposition

Thousands of Canadians are asking American regulators not to allow oil drilling in an Alaskan wildlife sanctuary that is home to a crucial transboundary caribou herd.

The request comes in a letter delivered Tuesday, the last day for comments to the U.S. Bureau of Land Management on its plans for an environmental assessment for energy exploration in the Alaskan National Wildlife Refuge, calving grounds for the Porcupine caribou herd.

"Oil and gas extraction has no place in the Arctic refuge," says the letter, which was organized by several Canadian environmental groups.

More than 14,000 Canadians have signed it. Their voices join more than a half million Americans who have also written the agency to oppose the drilling program.

"We have a stake in this," said Dana Tizya-Tramm, a councillor for Yukon's Gwich'In First Nation, which depends on the herd. "These are transboundary animals."

The governments of Canada, Yukon and Northwest Territories, as well as several First Nations, met in Inuvik, N.W.T., last December to discuss fears the refuge would be opened. They all signed an agreement promising to fight to uphold the treaty.

Despite those promises, none of the governments was immediately able to say if it had made a submission to the bureau.

The animals are protected under a U.S.-Canada treaty, which commits both nations to preserve them. The herd calves in Alaska, but its 218,000 caribou spend most of their time in Canada.

The herd is the largest and healthiest in the North and one that is considered crucial to the physical and cultural health of the Gwich'In people in Canada's northwest.

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