Plan to revitalize reindeer
Workshops deal with public concerns

Jim Chaloner
Northern News Services

Inuvik ( May 22/00) - A plan to revitalize the Western Arctic reindeer herd could also kick start a new industry.

The idea was made public recently at the first in a series of three public workshops.

A public review of the development has been initiated by the Environmental Impact Review Board in lieu of the Inuvialuit Final Agreement. Members were on hand at this informal gathering to hear any concerns from the community regarding the proposal.

Following the completion of the other workshops in Aklavik and Tuktoyaktuk, more formal hearings will be scheduled for the summer.

Lloyd Binder, the president of Kunnek Resource Development Corporation (an Inuvialuit-owned organization), explained that the plan is to relocate the present herd from the Tuktoyaktuk peninsula to the old Mackenzie Delta Reindeer Grazing Reserve within the Inuvialuit Settlement Region. The proposed summer range will take in Richards Island while the winter range will be located between Inuvik and Tuktoyaktuk.

In the first phase, the number of animals in the herd would be increased from the present 5,000 to a maximum of 12,000 in about three years to make it a viable industry.

The Kunnek plan states the two main activities to be undertaken during the revitalization phase are herd surveillance (directing and caring for the herd) and herd treatment (antler removal, ear-marking, blood testing, and animal treatment) within a corral and handling facility.

The antlers are harvested and sold for medicinal purposes in Asian markets.

Concerns brought forward at the meeting centred on the size of the herd and the carrying capacity of the range area that would be shared with the Bluenose caribou.

"The plan is to keep the herd consistently at a level that the herd isn't damaging the long-term productivity of lichen," Binder told the gathering.

The reindeer will also be monitored on a regular basis to keep them off the Kendall Island Bird Sanctuary, located near their summer range area.

Natural predation is considered beneficial for herd maintenance, however concerns were raised about dealing with predators, particularly the killing of any Grizzly bear, a quota species. To avoid any conflicts with hunters and trappers, herders would use deterrents and scare tactics, or even move the reindeer. In event of a defense kill, compensation is available.

Kunneck's long-term plan includes a meat production operation, with a quarantine ranch and a small clean herd. Binder is very positive about the venture. In future they will also be looking into a live export market.

He explained that the development would help support the hunters and trappers of the area, offering employment to the people who live off the land. Local tourism operators will also be able to take advantage of the spin-off benefits of this industry.