The Porcupine Caribou Herd is the 5th largest herd of migratory caribou in North America. It migrates over approximately 250,000 km² of Northern Alaska, Yukon and Northwest Territories. Caribou can travel as many as 150 kilometres a week over very rough terrain. Most of the migration within the seasonal ranges is unpredictable. But each spring the pregnant cows attempt to lead the herd to the 1002 lands on the coastal plain of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge – the safest place to birth and raise calves.
The 1002 lands are known by the Gwich'in people as Vadzaih googii vi dehk'it gwanlii, which means "the sacred place where life begins." This is an area rich in oil resources, but development conflicts with sustainability of the herd. Other issues that concern the herd are climate change and insect harassment, predators, parasites, hunting and other human activity. The Porcupine Caribou Management Board studies these issues and determines how best to protect the herd.
For over 20,000 years the caribou have been central to the culture of the First Nation peoples within the herd's range. This is still true today, and protection of the herd is critical for preservation of ancient traditions.
Management of this international herd is guided by two co-management boards, both of which develop management plans. The International Porcupine Caribou Board (IPCB) was formed in 1987 under the Agreement between the Government of Canada and the government of the United States of America on the conservation of the Porcupine Caribou Herd signed by the governments of the United States, Canada, Yukon and the Northwest Territories. The international plan, Plan for the International Conservation of the Porcupine Caribou Herd, outlines management actions that require cooperation between the two countries.
In Canada, the Porcupine Caribou Management Agreement formed the Porcupine Caribou Management Board (PCMB) in 1985. The Canadian management plan, drafted by the PCMB gives direction for cooperative management between First Nations, Inuvialuit and Gwich'in organizations and the governments of Canada, Yukon and the Northwest Territories. Both boards are advisory bodies and make recommendations for herd management to the respective government ministers.