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The latest news from CPAWS YUKON

November 2020

In this edition: 

  • Arctic Refuge updates (there are a few)
  • Dawson Land Use Plan update and the resignation of Art Webster
  • Yukon Government rejected a road application in the Beaver River Watershed 
  • The Story of McIntyre Creek

This is a slightly longer update than usual. A lot has happened in the past month on a few different campaigns, so I’ve added a few cool wildlife photos at the end of this newsletter as a little treat for making it through.

The last month has brought lots of really big news on the Arctic Refuge. At the beginning of November, the U.S. Bureau of Land Management announced that it's moving forward with a proposal to conduct seismic testing in the Arctic Refuge. Seismic machinery poses an enormous threat to polar bears, caribou and the fragile Arctic tundra. The U.S. Government only gave the public two weeks to respond, but a lot of people spoke up. Thanks to all of you who submitted a comment! It was also encouraging to see that both the Yukon Minister of Environment, Pauline Frost, and Canada’s Minister of Environment and Climate Change, Jonathan Wilkinson, came out with strong comments opposed to seismic exploration in the Arctic Refuge.

You’ll be hearing more from us on this shortly. On Tuesday we’re expecting the U.S Fish and Wildlife Service to begin accepting comments on seismic testing and polar bears… and once again it will be critical to get your concerns on the record. Stay tuned!

Porcupine caribou, by Peter Mather

Last month, TD confirmed they will not fund drilling in the Arctic Refuge. It’s a huge win for the Arctic Refuge! Just a few weeks ago, CIBC came out with a similar policy. That means RBC, BMO, TD, and CIBC all have policies that protect the Arctic Refuge from development. Across the border, Bank of America has announced that they will not fund projects in the Arctic Refuge. That means every major U.S. bank is on board and hopefully we’ll be able to say the same about Canadian banks soon!
Unfortunately, the U.S. Government is using its final days in office to try to sell off the Arctic Refuge to oil companies. They released a  “Call for Nominations” in mid-November, giving companies the opportunity to identify which parcels of land they’d like included in a lease sale. Then in a move that was shocking, the Bureau of Land Management decided to go ahead and issue a Notice of Lease Sale, in spite of repeatedly claiming that they’d wait until the comment window on the Call for Nominations closed. That means there could be a Lease Sale in the Arctic Refuge on January 6th, just two weeks before the new administration takes over. The last four years have shown that there’s overwhelming support for protecting the Arctic Refuge: Old Crow, Ottawa, Bay Street, Wall Street, Whitehorse… and before long the White House! We don’t know what a lease sale will bring, but we know that any company that decides to pursue leases will face overwhelming opposition. Vuntut Gwitchin First Nation are also asking for you to support the Arctic Refuge. Will you call Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s office and let him know that you want to see him voice public support for protecting the Arctic Refuge?

The Dawson Regional Land Use plan is currently underway, but unfortunately, the process hit a speedbump last month when Art Webster, vice-chair of the Planning Commission, resigned his position. His resignation letter stated his disappointment that the Yukon Government was unwilling to pause mineral staking while planning was underway. This is a sentiment that we agree with. In fact, it was one of our key recommendations to the Planning Commission during public consultations at the beginning of 2020. With thousands of claims already staked in the region, we don’t want to see a staking rush take place in areas of cultural and ecological significance. Our Executive Director, Chris Rider, wrote a letter in the Whitehorse Star echoing Art’s concerns that you can read here.

Within the Dawson region lies the Indian River Watershed, a landscape of wetlands that has been transformed by unsustainable levels of placer mining. These wetlands were a topic of concern at the recent Yukon Water Board hearings on placer mining in wetlands. Randi Newton, our Conservation Manager, presented at this hearing. She spoke to placer mining’s irreversible impact on wetlands and why the Water Board should hit pause on water licensing until we can fully understand what’s at stake. You can view her presentation here. 

Confluence of the Indian and Yukon River, Malkolm Boothroyd

It’s crucial to have a proper land use plan in place before large projects move forward. It’s something we’ve said numerous times, most notably about ATAC Resources proposed road through the heart of the Beaver River Watershed. Because of the road’s potential to degrade the watershed, Yukon Government and First Nation of Na-Cho Nyäk Dun agreed that a land use plan in the Beaver River Watershed had to be completed before approval of road construction would be considered. Last week, Yukon Government rejected ATAC’s application to circumvent the land use plan and have the road approved before the plan was complete. We’re really glad to see that the territorial government made a good decision and sent a message to companies that they have to properly address environmental concerns and impacts to treaty rights before a project can go ahead. 

The Beaver River Watershed is a place that we’ve thoroughly enjoyed visiting over the past few years on our Beaver River canoe trips. This year, the trip looked a little different due to COVID-19, but I wanted to acknowledge the hard work done by Randi and our guides Bobbi Rose Koe, Geneviève Paré, and Calder Cheverie to make it happen. The trip was also made possible thanks to support from Lotteries Yukon, Yellowstone to Yukon, Yukon Government, and the Yukon Fish and Wildlife Enhancement Fund. Most importantly, thanks to the First Nation of Na-Cho Nyäk Dun for inviting us and allowing us to experience their wonderful traditional territory.

Irene Buyck, one of the participants on the Beaver River Trip this year

And finally, over the summer our Conservation Intern (now Conservation Coordinator), Maegan McCaw, spent her time working hard at writing a report on McIntyre Creek in Whitehorse. This wilderness corridor in the heart of Whitehorse was an area that I was immediately drawn to when I first moved here. Reading Maegan’s report gave me an even deeper appreciation for its history, and what we know about it today. She set up camera traps and bat detectors in various locations, spoke to different knowledge holders from the community and looked at past monitoring to come up with The Story of McIntyre Creek (Chasàn Chùa). She wrote a blog post summarizing her report. Here are those wildlife photos I promised. They're from the camera traps she set up this summer!

What do you think this is? I think it might be a beaver. Could be a porcupine too.


Thanks for reading this far. This newsletter felt a little long, but maybe you’re into that? Let me know if you like longer newsletters, or if you'd like me to keep them shorter.

- Adil 


Non-Profits we love

Every month, we will be highlighting a non-profit doing awesome work. We believe working together will help us create a stronger future for conservation and end the "Non-Profit Hunger Games"

Wildlife Conservation Society Canada (WCS)

WCS Canada uses scientific research and policy action to help protect wildlife across Canada. They've been working on numerous projects in the Yukon, and I wanted to highlight their work with the First Nation of Na-Cho Nyäk Dun in the Beaver River Watershed. 

To learn more about WCS Canada:







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