The Yukon could be a national leader in conservation

June 22, 2021, Whitehorse, Yukon – Conservation foot-dragging by provinces and territories was the main reason behind Canada’s failure to meet its international promise to protect at least 17% of its land by 2020. While the Northwest Territories, Quebec and federal government earned the highest grades for their efforts to meet the target (A- to B), the Yukon was not far behind with a score of B-, according to a new Report Card by the Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society (CPAWS). Still, the Yukon Government, along with other jurisdictions, will need to improve their conservation performance in the years ahead if the country is to halt and reverse the critical decline of biodiversity and meet its pledge to protect at least 30% of its land and ocean by 2030.

The Grades Are In: A Report Card On Canada’s Progress in Protecting its Land and Ocean is a baseline for tracking Canada’s annual progress toward its 30-by-30 protection goal. This first CPAWS Report Card evaluated efforts to create protected areas over the past decade by Canada’s current federal, provincial, and territorial governments and assigned each jurisdiction a grade (except for Nunavut and PEI, where CPAWS does not have an on-the-ground presence). This assessment shows that a lack of commitment and ambition across much of the country stymied efforts to protect at least 17% of Canadian land and inland waters by last year’s 2020 deadline. Currently, only 13.1% of the country’s land is protected. Canada met its 10% ocean protection target by 2020 with 13.8% protected, albeit with concerns about the quality of conservation measures in some areas.

The Yukon remains behind the leaders with a score of B- but the potential to improve is high. Currently 11.8% of the territory is protected, and this number will rise to 19.4% once the Peel Watershed Plan is implemented. With the Peel saga resolved and land use planning no longer stalled, the Dawson Regional Land Use Plan is an opportunity for the Yukon to pick up momentum and become a national leader in conservation. Indigenous-led conservation, developing successor mining legislation, and putting the Yukon Parks Strategy into action are further opportunities for protecting Yukon’s ecologically and culturally important wild spaces. 

Some challenges remain. A funding injection is needed to boost depleted land use planning funds to make sure there is capacity and resources to do planning right. . In addition, mineral development continues to move ahead in the absence of land use planning, shaping landscapes before governments and people have the opportunity to determine their best future. 

For the Yukon to become a national leader in conservation, it must:

  • Support First Nation leadership through Indigenous Protected and Conserved Areas. 
  • Prioritize land use planning and First Nation rights over mining interests.
  • Pause mineral staking ahead of land use planning.
  • Complete Yukon Species At Risk legislation to protect the plethora of species not protected under existing legislation.

“Yukon Government’s performance for protecting wild spaces over the last decade was mixed but the next 10 years hold promise. The government can help ensure a healthy future for the ecosystems we all rely on by honouring the land use planning process and supporting Indigenous-led conservation,” said Randi Newton, CPAWS Yukon Conservation Manager.

“The goal of this inaugural Report Card is to learn from the successes and failures of the past to guide effective conservation into the future,” added Sandra Schwartz, CPAWS National Executive Director. “With the recent federal commitment of over $3 billion for nature conservation, including for partners, CPAWS is expecting real action – now – and we are looking forward to supporting this important work over the next decade.”

You can view the report here:

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For more information, or to arrange an interview, please contact: 

Adil Darvesh
Communications Coordinator, CPAWS Yukon
867-393-8080 x9

Tracy Walden
National Director, Communications and Development, CPAWS