2023: Our Year in Review
Written by Adil Darvesh, Communications Manager | January 10, 2024
Another amazing year has come and gone! On an individual level, an organizational level, and even on a broader conservation level, it seems like so much has happened throughout 2023.
We began the year on the heels of some very exciting news for the Yukon. A brand new Canada-Yukon Nature Agreement where the Yukon government formally committed to protecting 25% of the territory’s land and water by 2025 and funding for important conservation initiatives was signed at the COP15 summit in Ottawa. Not only does this provide a concrete direction for Yukon government, but aligns with what we know that Yukoners want.
This is just beginning, and we think there’s still so much opportunity to push even further. Protecting at least 30% by 2030 is a great next step to continue the momentum that we’re building.
At the beginning of the year we had some positive news when the Yukon Environmental and Socio-Economic Assessment Board (YESAB) rejected an exploration project in the Peel Watershed.
The first proposed development after the signing of the 2019 Peel Watershed Regional Land Use Plan required high standards for approval, and YESAB concluded that the Michelle Creek project didn’t meet those requirements. We felt great about the news, not only that the standard for projects would be higher, but that YESAB would hold companies accountable to those requirements.
Unfortunately, later in the year we saw the Yukon government take a drastic approach to this recommendation and file a judicial review in the Yukon courts arguing against YESAB’s decision.
We hope that this isn’t a pattern that develops between Yukon government and YESAB, but we’ll be keeping an eye on it and keeping you informed as it goes through the court process.
On a more positive note, we continued our work to help support on-the-land trips. In partnership with the First Nation of Na-cho Nyäk Dun (FNNND) and the Yukon First Nation Education Directorate (YFNED), Joti Overduin, our Outreach Manager, helped organize and lead youth through the meandering and scenic waters of the Wind River.
We’re so grateful to the Yukon Wildland Fire crews for helping everyone navigate through the trip and come home safely. Stay tuned in 2024 for lots of photos, videos, and stories from the Wind!
As the first float plane landed, friends and family waited on the shores of the Stewart River in Mayo to welcome the participants of the Wind River trip back.
Beaver River Watershed
As planning continues in other parts of the Yukon, we’re looking to the Beaver River Watershed in the Northern Tutchone region to continue with planning in the new year.
A few years ago, in early 2021, the Yukon government approved an exploration project in the Beaver River Watershed without appropriate consultations. The First Nation of Na-cho Nyäk Dun (FNNND) promptly sued the Yukon government, and won, with the court ruling that Yukon government did not adequately consult the First Nation and quashed the project approval.
It came as no surprise, however, that Yukon government is appealing this ruling. In November of this year, the court heard the Yukon government’s appeal in front of a packed courthouse.
It’s critical that Yukon government honours the rights and the values that FNNND, and many Yukoners want to see. We’re hopeful that the appeal won’t be upheld and we’ll be keeping an eye on it through the new year.
A small gathering at the CPAWS Yukon office to make posters and signs to protect the Beaver River Watershed.
We have a once in a generation opportunity. New mining legislation will rewrite the outdated Placer and Quartz Mining Acts, bringing mining in the Yukon into the 21st century and reforming the entire cycle of a mine.
We want to see mining laws properly reflect the values that we hold today and ensure that the wild spaces that we hold so dear will be available for future generations to use as well. That’s why we spent much of the year promoting Yukon government’s New Mineral Legislation open houses. These open houses were an opportunity to express the valid concerns that we have around current mining legislation and provide feedback for the new ideas that the government planners had in mind.
We also wanted to ensure that you all had the opportunity to participate in a meaningful way. We released “Redefining Mining” a storymap help outline the some of the major issues with current mining legislation and we hope to see in the future.
Chasàn Chùa/McIntyre Creek
A territorial park in the city of Whitehorse? That might be the future of Chasan Chua, a vibrant wildlife corridor that runs through the “Wilderness City.”
This year, Yukon government committed to working alongside Kwanlin Dün First Nation, Ta’an Kwäch’än Council, and the City of Whitehorse to establish a park. It comes after decades of campaigning to highlight the importance of the area, including the release of our report “Coexistence and Caution.”
After a year of taking account of as many wildlife species as we could throughout Chasan Chua, our 2023 report highlighted the major findings from the year as well as recommendations on how to ensure a healthy future for the creek and all of us who rely on it.
We also spent time scoping out Gladiator Metals’ claims which span from Cowley Creek, through Chasàn Chùa, and into Crestview. Mining exploration here would bring in lots of noise pollution, disturbance, and fundamentally change how the area gets used.
Your voice will continue to be needed through 2024. Stay tuned for updates and check out what we saw with our own eyes here.
Porcupine Caribou Herd
There were some exciting updates on the Porcupine Caribou Herd this year! In September, the Biden Administration canceled the seven remaining–and much contested–oil and gas leases within the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, home to the calving grounds of the Porcupine caribou herd.
While this was a HUGE win for the Gwich’in who have been working so hard to protect the Arctic Refuge, it also means the work is far from over. Just because these leases have been repealed does not mean the Arctic Refuge is protected.
Along with this news came the release of the Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement (SEIS). This SEIS was meant to address the deeply flawed Environmental Impact Statement released by the previous U.S. administration.
Thousands of you from across Canada shared your thoughts, vision, and values to protect the Arctic Refuge and the calving grounds of the Porcupine Caribou Herd. The U.S. Bureau of Land Management will continue combing through the responses and release their Final Environmental Impact Statement. One which we hope will put the Gwich’in and caribou ahead of profits for oil and gas.
A gathering at the CPAWS Yukon office tuning into the virtual hearings for the Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement.
Land and Water Relationship Planning Gathering
In April, we co-hosted a land and water relationship planning gathering in Carcross. It was a day packed with important conversations from presenters across the north and participants from across the country.
People from a broad spectrum of organizations, governments and institutions came together on April 20th, 2023, to share and learn about land and water relationship planning. This was very intentionally phrased to differentiate from land use planning. The gathering was an opportunity for western science and Indigenous knowledge holders to come together and share their knowledge, learn from each other, and move forward in a better way.
Some of the ideas and projects that were brought up at the gathering, in my opinion, deserve a bigger spotlight. This is hopefully just one step of many towards a better way of planning, and a better way of thinking about our relationship to land and water.
To learn more about what went on during the Land and Water Relationship Planning Gathering, tune into the full livestream of the day here.
Top row (left to right): Checking out the Gladiator Metals’ claims, Beading for Reconciliation workshop, a day on the Mayo River with FNNND
Middle Row (left to right): Welcome home dinner from the Wind River, pine basket weaving workshop with Aiden, walk through McIntyre Creek with CPAWS trustees
Bottom Row (left to right): Joti beading at FNNND’s 30th anniversary of Final Agreement being signed, Chris speaking at the Land and Water Relationship Planning Gathering, learn to ski and ID animal tracks with Kwanlin Koyotes
Thank you all for a wonderful year! Your support helped us achieve some great things, and we’re looking forward to continuing this momentum in 2024.