2022: Our Year in Review
Written by Adil Darvesh
What a year 2022 shaped up to be!
We achieved some major milestones for conservation across the Yukon, many of which were thanks to your support. From filling up City Hall to oppose a busy road through McIntyre Creek, to writing letters on plans and policies, your help makes our work possible. Throughout the year our team hosted 13 events and had over 200 submissions from people who care about the Yukon’s wild spaces. We feel incredibly grateful for everything we accomplished.
Last winter we saw record breaking amounts of snowfall, and our team was right in the middle of it! Maegan and Candace recorded snow tracks throughout McIntyre Creek/Chasàn Chùa as staff, volunteers, and dogs ventured out to see how animals use the creek. Amelia Ford, a Grade 12 student at F.H. Collins joined us on a few treks, and wrote about her experience.
Photo by Maegan Elliott.
We also saw the first proposed development in the Peel Watershed. The Michelle Creek mining exploration project would overlap two Wilderness Areas, and in our eyes, it was the first test of the protections that the Peel Watershed Regional Land Use Plan put in place. This December, the Yukon Environment and Socio-Economic Board (YESAB) recommended that the project not go forward due to impacts on wildlife and First Nation wellness. This is incredibly good news, as it sets a high precedent for project approval in the Peel Watershed.
The Special Management Areas (set aside for protection) in the Peel Watershed were added to the Canadian Protected and Conserved Areas Database and now officially count towards Canada’s conservation targets. As a result the Yukon jumped to second place in Canada for conserved areas at 19.1%, just behind British Columbia. This is a big step for us to achieve 25% protection by 2025 and 30% protection by 2030. At the time, these were only federal targets, but with the Canada-Yukon Nature Agreement signed in early December, the Yukon Government has also committed to 25% by 2025. Polling conducted by Nanos Research confirms that Yukoners are supportive of bold conservation targets, so this is a step in the right direction.
Perhaps one of the biggest changes for our team happened in the winter. We moved into a new office! While the old office had lots of history and character, our growing team needed a little bit more room for staff. Over the past year we’ve held a few events welcoming you to our new space and it’s something that we hope to continue in 2023.
As the weather warmed up, so did our campaign for McIntyre Creek. Nicole Schafenaker joined us as our first ever artist in residence, supported by the International Centre of Art for Social Change FUTURES/forward program. Wanting to explore the wildlife corridor and its species through a creative lens, she hosted a series of events called Corridors: A Community Engaged Art Series in early May.
Photo by Maegan Elliott.
This came at the perfect time, as the City of Whitehorse released their draft Official Community Plan (OCP). This OCP will guide the direction of the city over the next decade and the draft version committed to working with First Nations, Government of Yukon, and Yukon University to designate McIntyre Creek as a park. This was a huge moment for those who were calling for protection of McIntyre Creek for many years. The draft plan, however, included language that would keep the door open for a “transportation corridor,” a busy road cutting through this wildlife corridor. Over the spring we called on you to submit comments welcoming the idea of a park, but asking to remove any language that would include a road.
In late November, the City of Whitehorse removed that language from the proposed OCP, after so many of you came out to City Hall meetings, submitted comments, and shared your love for McIntyre Creek!
This summer Ainslie Spence joined the team as our Conservation and Events Intern. She managed our booth at the local Fireweed Market and spoke with many of you about our campaigns and recommendations.
Ainslie identified that a lot of our materials were geared towards environmentally minded people, but we didn’t have very much for a younger audience. In response, she created a phenomenal resource for parents and youth titled Hutch’s Yukon Adventure. This colouring and puzzle book follows Hutch, the CPAWS Yukon husky, through his adventures around the Yukon in our key campaign areas. You can pick up a copy of the book at our office!
One of the areas in Hutch’s Yukon Adventure is the Beaver River Watershed, where our team has helped organize youth river trips in the past. This summer we traveled to Mayo to premiere films from the 2020 and 2021 Beaver River Watershed canoe trips. It was so awesome to show the community these movies, and promote the upcoming trip from Mayo to Moosehide.
Malkolm and I joined this summer’s canoe trip and had such a great experience connecting with youth and the land. We paddled along the Stewart and the Yukon rivers, taking time to stop at important historical sites, like the Old Village. Trips like these are important ways to continue sharing knowledge and foster a connection with people and place.
Our connection to place was also highlighted in our Plants of the Boreal walks. So many of you joined us on guided walks with plant experts to learn about what grows in our backyard. We took what we learned in these walks and at the end of the summer, Candace hosted a Winter Medicine Making Workshop to collect plants and share some of their different uses. It was a big success and something we hope to continue in 2023!
Photo by Paula Gomez Villalba.
As fall rolled in, so too did Environment Ministers across Canada. Many of you joined our calls for the Yukon Government to adopt similar targets to the Federal Government’s for 25% and 30% protection. At the time, the Yukon didn’t commit to any, but it’s possible they were laying the groundwork for the Canada-Yukon Nature Agreement signed in December by Minister Steven Guilbeault and Minister Nils Clarke. It sets aside funding for land use planning and protecting areas across the territory!
Nature conservation will be crucial for helping us manage the effects of climate change. We released a new report, written by Malkolm and Randi, about a significant blind spot in the Yukon’s climate strategy. Peat is an organic material rich in carbon, and disturbing it could release large amounts of carbon into the atmosphere. Our report, The Yukon’s Climate Blind Spot addresses some of the concerns behind development in peatlands, and provides recommendations to manage them better. You can read a summary of the report here.
Photo by Malkolm Boothroyd.
The release of the Dawson Region Recommended Plan in the late fall kicked off a multi-month campaign to help you submit comments. We held a webinar and a few in-person events sharing our recommendations for a strong plan and sharing tools for you to make your own submission. Thank you to everyone who sent comments, we’ll eagerly await the Final Recommended Plan in spring 2023!
As the snow arrived and the holiday season began, we hosted our open house for the first time in a few years, and it was so great to be back! Our Pop-Up Shop and Holiday Open House highlighted some of our work and collaborated with some of our favourite artists and craft makers. We joined forces with the Yukon Conservation Society, our new neighbours, inviting you to a day out at “Conservation Corner.” Thanks to everyone who stopped by to say hello, learn about our work, and buy some goodies for the holidays.
Lastly, right after the open house our Outreach Manager, Joti, joined the CPAWS team in Montreal at the COP15 biodiversity conference. Joti shared some of her thoughts on our social media pages as she met with leaders across the country and shared ideas around protecting and conserving biodiversity through Indigenous-led conservation. Stay tuned for a summary from COP15 soon!
Phew! A lot happened this year. We’re so thankful to you for your support and for continuing to show up for nature. I had to skip over some other things that took place last year, but our Communications Coordinator, Paula, does a great job sharing our work on social media. Follow us to keep up to date!
Finally, I want to thank our previous Executive Director, Chris Rider. Over the past 4.5 years that I’ve been at CPAWS Yukon, Chris was a constant source of support, advice, and perfectly timed dad jokes. We’re all really happy that he is now taking lessons learned from our chapter onto the CPAWS National chapter in Ottawa and continuing to advocate for wild spaces across the country.
From the CPAWS Yukon team, thank you again for your support. We’re excited for 2023!