In a recent study, biologists from the Wilderness Society, the U.S. Geological Survey and the National Park Service found that about 1.5 to 8.5 percent of the northwest herd’s lichen-rich winter habitat would be displaced by the proposed road. That may not sound like much but Dau said there is more to consider.
Most of the caribou migrate south in the fall, traveling just to the west of where the road would end, but sometimes, instead of traveling south toward the Seward Peninsula, they hook a left and walk up the Kobuk.
The caribou can likely learn to live along a road. They have done it time and time again throughout the continent. Dau has studied herds’ movements near the Kuparuk oil fields, near the Red Dog Mine. He’s talked to biologists in Canada whose herds navigate much more developed land than in Alaska. But Dau’s question is one many share: Will this be the only road, or is it just the first?