With 83% of the land protected, and joint implementation and decision making for First Nations, this outcome is beyond what we expected.
An agreement to protect 3.8 million hectares in the Yukon has been agreed by indigenous peoples and the government of the territory following 25 years of campaigning.
A new land use plan will restrict development in the Peel Watershed Planning Region, an area of the Yukon that is important to migratory wildlife such as birds and the endangered boreal caribou.
Fifteen at-risk species live in the area, including the bank swallow, gypsy cuckoo bumble bee, and olive-sided flycatcher. Large mammals such as grizzly bears, moose and wolves also share the habitat.
Management plans will now be developed through a partnership between the Government of Yukon and the First Nation tribes of Na-Cho Nyäk Dun, Tr’ondëk Hwëch’in, Vuntut Gwitchin, and Gwich’in Tribal Council.
More than half of the land will be permanently protected through the designation of special management areas. A quarter will be designated as a wilderness area and protected on an interim basis.
Any changes to this land will need to be agreed by both the government and the indigenous peoples, which has given campaigners confidence that the area will be safe from development despite only receiving interim protection.
A further interim-protected area making up three per cent of the planning region is specifically aimed at helping conserve the boreal caribou under Canada’s federal Species at Risk Act.
Chris Rider, executive director of campaign group Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society Yukon Chapter, said: “The thing that excites me most about the plan is that Yukon Government and the Peel First Nations will now implement every part of it together.
“This is a huge step forward that will have implications not just for the Peel, but all future land use planning processes across the Yukon.
“With 83 percent of the land protected, and joint implementation and decision making for First Nations, this outcome is beyond what we expected,” he added.
Catherine Early is a freelance environmental journalist and chief reporter for the Ecologist. She can be found tweeting at @Cat_Early76.