McIntyre Creek/Chasàn Chùa
Header Image: Juvenile Bald Eagle, by Malkolm Boothroyd
McIntyre Creek is the heart of a wildlife corridor that passes through the city of Whitehorse, in the traditional territories of the Ta’an Kwäch’än Council and Kwanlin Dün First Nation. Its Southern Tutchone name is Chasàn Chùa, or Copper Creek, named by Yukon First Nation People who would find copper nuggets in the area. McIntyre Creek has a long and colourful history, beginning as a glacial meltwater channel and now as a highly valued recreational and wilderness area in Yukon’s capital city. The creek and surrounding environment have adjusted to many changes over time and hold many historic and present day cultural, social, and ecological values.
Several distinct ecological communities support an abundance of biodiversity along the creek. Many species – from plants, to invertebrates, to mammals – are found at McIntyre Creek. Some of these species are rare or at risk. Coyote, red fox, Leafy Thistle, Black-capped Chickadee and Slimy Sculpin are a few of the species that reside year round at the creek. Some species use the area as a travel route or for important life stages, including black bear, lynx and moose. Conserving the habitats that these species rely on is critical for sustaining their long-term use of the area.
McIntyre Creek is also important to people. It provides ecosystem services, such as water filtration and flood regulation. It is a popular recreational area and an easily accessible place where people connect with and learn about nature, exercise, decompress, and care for their physical and mental health. This role has become increasingly important with the travel and social gathering restrictions related to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The City of Whitehorse has identified McIntyre Creek/Chasàn Chùa as a future regional park. At the same time, to meet the demands of a rapidly growing population, the City has explored several development options that would cut into the McIntyre Creek corridor, including building a road connecting two of Whitehorse’s main roadways: the Alaska Highway and Mountain View Drive. These developments would fragment and encroach on wildlife habitat, and erode the area’s wilderness and recreational value.
In 2023, the Yukon government closed McIntyre Creek/Chasàn Chùa to new mineral staking in 2023. This is good news, but doesn’t prevent development within existing claims. About one third of McIntyre Creek is covered by claims, most of which are controlled by Gladiator Metals Corp. Mining activity on these claims could bring disturbances to the more remote parts of the creek.
While expanding development into the McIntyre Creek/Chasàn Chùa Corridor is convenient in the short term, it is important to consider the long-term implications of encroaching into a wildlife corridor that allows wildlife to safely pass through the City of Whitehorse. The creek presents a unique opportunity for local conservation planning with a long-term vision.