Abstract

The Northwest Project Study Group has sponsored some of the most comprehensive ecological studies ever carried out by private industry in the Arctic.

Wildlife studies include caribou, Dall sheep, moose, wolves and fur bearing mammals such as beaver and marten. Separate study crews are also carrying out work on birds and fisheries.

Mammal studies are being conducted by Renewable Resources Consulting Services Ltd. of Edmonton, consultants to Williams Brothers (Canada) Ltd. Williams Brothers are responsible for engineering, environmental and feasibility studies for the Northwest Project.

Wildlife studies are designed to assess the probable impact of construction and operation of a buried gas pipeline on various species, and to develop means of avoiding or minimizing adverse effects.

Direct impacts being studied include possible interference with caribou migrations during construction. Indirect impacts consist of alterations of habitat which may affect animal populations, or disturbance factors following construction which may affect behavior.

A summary of the approach to studies and major findings of the first phase of studies conducted during 1971 are presented.

The distribution of major species and their relationships to pipeline developments are discussed.

Introduction

Proposals for construction of a natural gas pipeline from Prudhoe Bay through the Mackenzie Valley have generated wide ranging environmental studies.

As part of a comprehensive feasibility study, the Northwest Project Study Group has sponsored several major ecological studies which are being carried out under the direction of Williams Brothers Canada Ltd. These are studies of vegetation and revegetation oriented towards rapid establishment of plant cover on disturbed areas; fisheries, ornithology and mammalogy studies. Both intensive study of specific areas and for specific species I and extensive surveys have been conducted along Alaska and Canadian segments of proposed pipeline routes.

This paper deals with mammal studies being carried out by Renewable Resources Consulting Services Ltd of Edmonton. The purpose is to illustrate the approaches and preliminary findings of research to date, and to discuss the implications of a buried, chilled gas pipeline on various species of mammals in northern Canada.

SPECIES

For administrative convenience, studies have been categorized as caribou (big game) and furbearer studies. Major species include caribou, moose, Dall sheep, and Barren Ground Grizzly bear in the caribou study program.

Furbearer studies include both major aquatic species (beaver, muskrat) and upland species (marten, Arctic fox, wolves).

Separate research teams have been established for each of the study programs.

SCOPE OF STUDIES AND APPROACH

The initial study objective was to gather baseline inventory information for various species, since the knowledge of the distribution of animals and their habitat in the Arctic and Sub-Arctic regions is limited. Specific data pertaining to wildlife along proposed pipeline routes was non-existent. Therefore prior to any assessment of impact, the acquisition of baseline information was necessary. Both aerial and ground surveys were employed to gather data on numbers, distribution, habitat and movements of mammal populations.

Since Barren-ground caribou are a species of considerable importance, intensive studies were carried out on several facets of caribou ecology.

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