Department of Interior

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For Immediate Release: March 11, 2003

Contact: Mark Pfeifle (202) 208-6416

Central Caribou Herd Grows to Record Numbers on Alaska's North Slope
(WASHINGTON, DC) - A recent survey of the Central Arctic caribou herd, conducted by biologists at the Alaska Department of Fish and Game, calculates that the population of the herd is at the highest levels ever recorded.

The herd's population now stands at 31,857 caribou, up from 27,128 in 2000. This compares with a population of about 5,000 in the mid-1970s.

"The fact that the herd has grown steadily for the past 25 years while energy production has been ongoing on Alaska's North Slope is a solid sign," Interior Secretary Gale A. Norton said.

The Central Arctic herd ranges from the Brooks Range north to the Beaufort Sea and from the Colville River (the eastern border of National Petroleum Reserve-Alaska) east to the Canning River (the western edge of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge). It migrates about 120 miles between its summer and winter ranges each year.

The survey by the Alaska Department of Fish and Game was conducted in July 2002, using a camera mounted in the belly of a Dehavilland Beaver aircraft. State biologists reported that calving success was good and mortality rates were low in 2000 and 2001, which led to the continued growth of the herd.

Secretary Norton reiterated the Department of the Interior's support for energy production in the far North Slope of ANWR's 1002 Area that was set aside for possible oil and gas production in 1980 by President Carter and a Democratically-controlled Congress. "Energy production in Alaska's North Slope will reduce dependence on foreign oil from dictators and unstable countries; will create new jobs; is strongly supported by labor unions; and will protect wildlife with the toughest environmental regulations ever applied," Secretary Norton said.

"With American ingenuity and new technologies, we can protect the tundra and wildlife on the North Slope. Protections with broad congressional and administration support include the following: mandated ice roads and runways to protect habitat; utilizing no more than 2,000 acres for development; strict analysis of each proposed exploration side to avoid sensitive springs, streams, rivers and wetlands; and exploration only in the winter to protect breeding, spawning and wildlife migration patterns," Secretary Norton concluded.

(Attached is a copy of the findings from the Alaska Department of Fish and Game.)


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