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Tuesday June 30 2015 9 ENVIRONMENT WILDLIFE The South Slave Divisional Education Council would like to extend our sincere congratulations to the 2015 graduates of Diamond Jenness SecondarySchoolinHayRiver andLutselKeDeneSchoolinLutselKe. Best wishes as you begin to create your own future. Remember graduation is not the end its a new beginning. South Slave Divisional Education Council STITTCO UTILITIES NWT Ltd. Hay River NT 867 874-2432 Congratulations Wishing you all the very best on your graduation day and beyond. Diamond JennessDiamond JennessDiamond Jenness Congratulations Diamond Jenness Congratulations Diamond Jenness Congratulations Diamond Jenness Congratulations GraduatesGraduatesGraduates By DALI CARMICHAEL This time last year biologists at Wood Buffalo National Park were elated to count a record-breaking number of whooping crane nests in the park but recent counts indicate that trend has not continued into 2015. In this years annual nest count survey Parks staff found only 68 nests compared to 82 last year. Though not an ofcial part of the study they also counted six chicks dur- ing the assessment period from May 25 to 29. To complete the annual research conser- vation ofcers y in a grid over last years nest locations. If the nests are not found they y in ever-widening circles around old nest sites in hopes of nding the birds new mating grounds nearby. They can also track cranes that have been tted with satellite location bands. Parks staff believe the low nest count means the cranes have moved outside of this research grid the result of drought in the region. The habitat conditions are dry said Tim Gauthier spokesperson for Wood Buffalo Na- tional Park. The water levels in the ponds were lower than normal for this time of year. In other dry years we have seen that this can force the cranes to travel further to forage for food and can make it easier for predators to access the nesting area. Long-time whooping crane enthusiast Ron- nie Schaefer has also noticed the great birds building their summer homes in new loca- tions. For years Schaefer has watched two pairs of whooping cranes raise their chicks in the same spot outside of Fort Smith in an area known as the Foxholes on Salt River First Nation land. Drought conditions have moved them far- ther into the wetlands and the Foxhole quar- ries so its hard to get in there now Schae- fer said. Both nests were seen by Canadian Wildlife Service. They went to the west but theyre still in Salt River Reserve lands. Heavyonslaughtsofwildreactivityinthearea haveexacerbatedthemigrationSchaefernoted. The res dont help very much either. On the east side of Wood Buffalo there was a re by Little Buffalo Falls last year that probably pushed them a little further to the west and to the north. This year we have that re again by Little Buffalo so there is concern. There is an upside to the cranes change in locations however both Schaefer and Parks scientists noted a new nest this year at the Salt Plains in the park where they can be viewed by telescope from a lookout. We have never had a nest in this area be- fore Gauthier said. The Salt Plains is not a Zone 1 Special Preservation Area like the core whooping crane nesting area is. Although the pair could be seen at a distance by the public at the Salt Plains access is limited by a creek and wet muddy ground that discourages people from going too close to the nest site. Whooping cranes the tallest of the North Americanbirdsareanendangeredspeciesthat summerinthemuskegofWoodBuffaloandwin- teratacoastalwildlifereserveinAransasTexas. Decadesofconservationeffortshavehelpedthe wildpopulationgrowfromabout15birdsinthe 1940s to over 308 as of last year. By MEAGAN WOHLBERG Imperial Oil and its joint venture partners BP and ExxonMobil are delaying their plans to drill for offshore oil in the Beaufort Sea off the coast of the NWT. The companies notied the Inuvialuit Re- gional Corp.s Environmental Impact Review Board in a letter last Friday that they would be suspending all regulatory work and planned submissions for the proposed Beaufort Sea Joint Venture Exploration Drilling Program citing time restrictions as their reason. Imperial is committed to pursuing explo- ration activities in a technically sound envi- ronmentallyresponsibleandeconomicallyef- cientmanner.Imperialwillconductadditional technical studies and research specic to the unique operating conditions for drilling in the deepwaterBeaufortSeawithitslimiteddrilling season to ensure a viable program. However under the current licence term there is insuf- cienttimetoconductthenecessarytechnical work and complete the regulatory process states the letter from Imperials exploration operations manager Lee Willis. The application was to drill a test well ap- proximately 175 km northwest of Tuktoyaktuk atdepthsofupto1500metresbelowthewater. The companies had hoped to begin drill- ing by summer 2020 when one of their two exploration licences expires. On behalf of the joint venture partners Im- perial is now undertaking discussions with the federal government to have the current licence term retroactively extended to 16 years up to 2028. If approved the extension would provide sufcient time to undertake the necessary technical studies and develop the technology and processes to support responsible devel- opment in the Beaufort Sea Willis wrote. The companies secured the exploration rights from the federal government for a combined 1.8 billion in work commitments. Prior to the delay Imperial was expected to provide its oil spill response plan to the review board and the National Energy Board NEB by the fall. Despite the announcement Imperial said it plans to keep its Inuvik ofce continue to collect data on sea ice and to work with communities to dene business employment and training opportunities for Northerners in the project. Imperial remains committed to the Arc- tic as an important future source of energy Willis concluded. Last December Chevron also put its 100-million Arctic drilling plans on hold indenitely citing economic uncertainty in the industry. Recent resource estimates by the NEB peg the conventional petroleum resources in the Beaufort Sea at as much as 9.6 trillion cubic feet of natural gas and up to 9.5 billion bar- rels of oil. Beaufort Sea offshore oil drilling plans delayed indenitely INDUSTRY OFFSHORE OIL Drought impacting whooping cranes of Wood Buffalo PhotoKlausNigge Some nesting whooping cranes of Wood Buffalo have been forced to relocate their summer homes this year as a result of low water levels and nearby forest res.