Hundreds of thousands of people are opposed to opening the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge in the North for oil exploration and wrote letters to the United States government saying so.
But Gwitchin Nation knows its facing an uphill battle to protect their cultural way of life and the porcupine caribou herd that has sustained them for generations.
After all, the final decision is going to be made by a government with President Donald Trump at the helm.
“Now their fate is being thrown on some kind of gambling table and the U.S. government is throwing the dice,” said Coun. Dana Tiyza-Tramm with the Vuntut Gwitchin.
U.S. Congress passed the tax and jobs bill late last year but tucked in the bill was a section to open the refuge for drilling.
It had been closed to oil exploration since 1980 because of concerns about the impact on the environment and the calving grounds of the caribou.
The U.S. Bureau of Land Management is tasked with developing an environmental assessment with plans to have land leases available by 2019.
“Usually an environmental impact statement would take about five years, well they fast tracked this process and limited the scoping so this is a one-year environmental impact statement for one of the most incredibly fragile areas in the North,” Tiyza-Tramm.
A call for public comments closed last week with more than 14,000 Canadians sending in letters opposed to drilling, along with 500,000 Americans.