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Board approves seismic program

Roxanna Thompson
Northern News Services

Kakisa (Dec 01/06) - A Paramount Resources seismic program for Cameron Hills has passed through environmental assessment despite concerns over the effects it might have on boreal caribou.

The program received approval on Nov. 14 from the Mackenzie Valley Environmental Impact Review Board.

The board included two mitigating measures on the permit. Without the measures, the board said the program could have a "significant adverse impact on boreal caribou."

Paramount Resources will be required to make its cutlines meander and have a maximum width of 2.5 meters. They will also have to use cutline blocking techniques.

The new measures create terms that are different from the company's original request.

Paramount applied for a land use permit in September 2005 for a geophysical program to look for potential oil and gas reserves along approximately 45 kilometres of access cutlines.

They requested approval for six meter wide cutlines to be made by bulldozers so either dynamite or vibrators could be used to get the seismic data.

The cutline width was decreased to help protect the boreal caribou in the area, according to the review board. Boreal caribou are listed as a threatened species under the federal Species at Risk legislation.

In its reasons for the decisions, the board listed evidence from the Government of the Northwest Territories that said linear developments increase the abundance of predators. Fragmented habitat facilitates the travel and hunting efficiency of wolves and allows access for legal and illegal hunting.

With the decreased cutline the board said it assumes Paramount will use hand cutlines or helicopter portable seismic equipment.

Chief Lloyd Chicot of the Ka'a'gee Tu First Nation in Kakisa said he's pleased with the board's decisions.

The land use permit was sent to environmental assessment in November 2005 after Kakisa stated concerns that there would be an adverse impact on the environment of their traditional territory.

Chicot said his band has been keeping a close watch on the developments by Paramount in the Cameron Hills.

"If you're not aware of what they're doing it gets bigger," Chicot said.

Pushing the land use permit into environmental assessment was one way to get Paramount to acknowledge the band's concerns, he said.

"You have to be right on top of these issues or they'll pull a fast one on you," he said.

The decision to narrow the cutlines is welcomed, Chicot said.

People in Kakisa have long known that a herd of caribou uses the area near Cameron Hills and then migrates by Tathlina Lake, said Chicot. They also know that straight cutlines make hunting easier for wolves.

Wolves will wait on top of hills and from that vantage point they can see right down the cutlines and watch for caribou, he said.

Caribou also know where the cutlines are and choose to follow them, said Chicot.

"It's just common sense to alter the cutlines," he said.

In its original land use permit application, Paramount stated it would make meandering cutlines.

Calls to Paramount Resources were not returned by the press deadline.

The land use permit still needs to be approved by the Mackenzie Valley Land and Water Board.