There is growing interest in the possibility of increasing domestic U.S. oil production by beginning exploration in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR). But many Americans are concerned that oil exploration and development will hurt the wildlife, particularly caribou, that make their home in the refuge.
The public's concern is due in large measure to misinformation they've been given about the impact existing oil fields in the Prudhoe Bay region of Alaska have had on the caribou population there.
Misinformation need not reign on this issue, however. A great deal of research has been conducted this question, and the results generally show that caribou have fared quite well since Prudhoe Bay oil field development began in the late 1970s. What government agencies, environmental groups, and the media have reported, however, is a one-sided and largely incorrect view of the relationship between caribou and oil fields.
A series of scientific papers published since 1992 consistently show that the caribou population has increased dramatically during the period of oil field development, and caribou herds regularly use ranges in the oil fields. In 1998, the journal Arctic published a paper documenting that caribou do in fact use ranges in and around the oil fields at Prudhoe Bay. The paper's publication was reported in The Yukon News, a Canadian newspaper, but not in Alaskan or other U.S. media.
Another paper published in 1998, in the journal Biological Conservation, showed the size of the caribou herd that uses the oil fields has increased dramatically (from about 5,000 animals to more than 23,000) since the oil fields were first developed.
Written By: Matthew Cronin, Ph.D.
Published In: Environment News
Publisher: The Heartland Institute
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