Trump win threatens Porcupine caribou herd, says Yukon MP

MP Larry Bagnell and the Vuntut Gwitchin First Nation fear the U.S. election results do not bode well for one of the North's last thriving caribou herds.

'The Republicans have always wanted to have drilling' in calving grounds, Larry Bagnell says

The Porcupine herd is one of the largest migratory barren ground caribou herds in North America. Its range stretches from Alaska to Yukon. (Meagan Deuling/CBC)

Yukon MP Larry Bagnell believes Donald Trump's victory does not bode well for one of the last thriving caribou herds in the North — the Porcupine caribou.

Bagnell says Trump's winning the U.S. presidency, along with Republican victories in the Senate and Congress, will make protecting the herd's calving grounds in Alaska from oil drilling "difficult."

"The Republicans have always wanted to have drilling there, which would upset the life cycle of the herd," Bagnell said.

The Porcupine herd is one of the largest migratory barren ground caribou herds in North America. Its range stretches from Alaska's North Slope into northern Yukon. The size of the herd fluctuates but the last population estimate, from 2013, put the herd at about 197,000 animals.

Yukon MP Larry Bagnell says the new U.S. administration is going to make efforts to protect the Porcupine herd 'difficult.' (Cheryl Kawaja/CBC)

Many Indigenous people in Alaska and Yukon rely on the herd for food, and have lobbied for decades to ensure the herd's calving grounds in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR) are protected from development. The area is rich in untapped oil.

President George W. Bush pushed to open the area to development, and Alaskan senator Lisa Murkowski introduced a bill last year that would have permitted oil production in the refuge.  

President Barack Obama, however, sought to expand the protected area.

Bagnell says now that Republicans will control the agenda in Washington, "it's going to make that more challenging." 

Northern Indigenous leaders head to Washington

Indigenous leaders from Alaska and Yukon are in Washington this week to lobby outgoing President Obama to designate ANWR a special monument.

Among them is Lorraine Netro, representing the Vuntut Gwitchin Government in Old Crow, Yukon.

Lorraine Netro, of Old Crow, Yukon, is in Washington, D.C. to lobby for 'the highest protection possible' of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. (Cheryl Kawaja/CBC)

"The political environment in Washington, D.C., has changed drastically, and our plight to protect the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge and calving grounds of the Porcupine caribou has become that much more important," Netro said.

She says they've been lobbying for decades to ensure the region receives "the highest protection possible.

"We're going to continue to do so, and do the best we can," she said.

According to president-elect Donald Trump's website, his administration will "unleash an energy revolution" in the U.S.

"Rather than continuing the current path to undermine and block America's fossil fuel producers, the Trump Administration will encourage the production of these resources by opening onshore and offshore leasing on federal lands and waters," the website reads.

"Energy is the lifeblood of modern society. It is the industry that fuels all other industries."

President-elect Donald Trump met with President Barack Obama at the White House on Thursday. Trump has promised to 'make full use of our domestic energy sources, including traditional and renewable energy sources.' (Michael Reynolds/EPA)

Concerns about trade, Arctic protection

MP Larry Bagnell has other concerns about Trump, including the "strong protectionist sentiment" he expressed during the presidential campaign. Bagnell says Canada relies heavily on trade with the U.S., and higher tariffs would have a major impact. 

"I am very worried about that," he said. "This negative view of trade could hurt both our countries."

He's also concerned about protecting the Arctic region, something he'll have a chance to discuss next week in Ottawa at a meeting of the Standing Commitee of Parliamentarians of the Arctic Region. Bagnell is vice-chair of the committee that includes representatives from the U.S. (including Murkowski), and Russia.

"It's very important that in spite of what happens elsewhere, that we work together to protect the Arctic, because the ecology is so integrated with the three nations."

Bagnell also stressed that Canada will continue to work with the U.S. under its new administration, and "when we work with them, of course we will continue to preserve our Canadian values.

"When I dropped the kids off at school [Wednesday], this woman came up to me and hugged me, just because she was so passionate about Canada," he said.

With files from Cheryl Kawaja