end of the road1

We had a short conversation with an outfitter the other day. He was talking about the Wind River region.

We had a short conversation with an outfitter the other day.

He was talking about the Wind River region.

Combined with the Snake and Bonnet Plume rivers, it makes up about 32,000 square kilometres of the Yukon territory — if lines drawn on a map are important.

Unfortunately, these days they are.

And 32,000 square kilometers sounds like a lot of land.

And perhaps it is. To the territory.

But seen through the outfitter’s eyes, the watershed seemed small. Tiny even.

This is a guy who’d sought wild places. He’d initially settled in BC.

But loggers, miners, oilmen, ATVers, hikers, drivers and countless others had pushed him out of the province.

The wilderness was gone, trammeled by many diverse interests.

And so he went looking for more.

He came north. And eventually settled on the Wind River region.

And there he worked for about a decade.

Then, about a month ago, southern developers caught up with him again.

In this case, it’s Vancouver-based Cash Minerals.

The junior company has an interest in ferreting out uranium and coal deposits in the Yukon.

And its focus is the Wernecke Mountains.

The headwaters of the Wind River is found in those same mountains, which average 1,800 metres in elevation.

Cash wants to reactivate about 250 kilometres of the Wind River Trail, a long-abandoned winter road. It also wants to build 39 kilometres of spur roads, landing strips and fuel caches.

It seekis approval for all this activity in a wilderness that, except for a very few exceptions, is intact.

And so, you have the old fight brewing again: develop or preserve.

The fight has moved north, inexorably.

There are small enclaves of wilderness, including quite a swath in northern BC. But even those have been warped and damaged by development interests.

“This is it,” said the outfitter.

It is one of the last wild places in North America, he said.

And so Cash Minerals’ bid, which is currently under review by the Yukon Environmental and Socio-economic Assessment Board, represents the first push towards the end of the proverbial plank.

It represents, literally, the loss of one of the very last wild ecosystems on the North American continent.

For, in this region today, there are no permanent roads, mines, sawmills. No human settlement. Heck, there’s virtually nothing.

But that’s changing.

And so the battle lines are drawn again.

It’s a struggle that has played out again and again. And it hasn’t worked out well for champions of intact ecosystems — there very few left.

And the odds of this one surviving aren’t that great either.

Despite the public outcry, the Yukon government is a shameless booster of resource development. And it prefers to allow industry to stake its claims well before the planners can draw borders around the important bits.

In fact, planners have drawn borders around the important bits. They identified the watershed of the Wind River, the last intact wilderness ecosystem in the Yukon.

And industry strode in and laid claim anyway.

The outfitter has seen this type of thing before. Like many other critters, he’s been pushed to find new habitat. And he’s at the limit of his range. There is no other wild to go to.

The Wind is it.

Which is why the 32,000 square kilometres of that watershed seems small.

Microscopic, in fact.

And its loss will be as significant as the death of the last tiger or polar bear.

With the loss of each piece goes a chunk of ourselves. (RM)

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Yukonomist Keith Halliday
Yukonomist: The aesthetics and economics of highway strips

One of the many cultural experiences you enjoy while driving from Whitehorse… Continue reading

Submitted
Artwork by Grade 2 student Faith showing her thanks for everyone.
Artwork by Grade 2 student Faith showing her thanks for everyone. (Submitted)
Yukon kids express gratitude for nature, pets and friends in art campaign

More than 50 children submitted artwork featuring things they are grateful for

Team Yukon skip Laura Eby, left, directs her team as Team Northern Ontario skip Krysta Burns looks on at the Scotties Tournament of Hearts in Calgary on Feb. 22. (Jeff McIntosh/CP)
Team Yukon reports positive experience at Scotties

Team Yukon played their final game at the national championship in Calgary on Thursday afternoon

A sign indicating a drop-off area behind Selkirk Elementary school in Whitehorse on Feb. 25. (Haley Ritchie/Yukon News)
Parking lot proposal for Selkirk Elementary criticized

Parents and school council are raising concerns about green space and traffic woes

adsf
WYATT’S WORLD

Wyatt’s World for Feb. 26, 2021

Tom Ullyett, pictured, is the first Yukoner to receive the Louis St-Laurent Award of Excellence from the Canadian Bar Association for his work as a community builder and mentor in the territory. (Gabrielle Plonka/Yukon News)
Tom Ullyett wins lifetime achievement award from the Canadian Bar Association

Ullyett has worked in the Yukon’s justice ecosystem for 36 years as a public sector lawyer and mentor

The Blood Ties outreach van will now run seven nights a week, thanks to a boost in government funding. Logan Godin, coordinator, and Jesse Whelen, harm reduction counsellor, are seen here on May 12, 2020. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Blood Ties outreach van running seven nights a week with funding boost

The Yukon government is ramping up overdose response, considering safe supply plan

Ranj Pillai speaks to media about business relief programs in Whitehorse on April 1, 2020. The Yukon government announced Feb.25 that it will extend business support programs until September. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News)
Government extends business relief programs to September, launches new loan

“It really gives folks some help with supporting their business with cash flow.”

Whitehorse City Hall. (Joel Krahn/Yukon News file)
A look at decisions made by Whitehorse City Council this week

Bylaw amendment Whitehorse city council is moving closer with changes to a… Continue reading

Susie Rogan is a veteran musher with 14 years of racing experience and Yukon Journey organizer. (Yukon Journey Facebook)
Yukon Journey mushers begin 255-mile race

Eleven mushers are participating in the race from Pelly Crossing to Whitehorse

Legislative assembly on the last day of the fall sitting in Whitehorse on Nov. 22, 2018. As the legislature prepares to return on March 4, the three parties are continuing to finalize candidates in the territory’s 19 ridings. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Nine new candidates confirmed in Yukon ridings

It has been a busy two weeks as the parties try to firm up candidates

David Malcolm, 40, has been charged with assaulting and attempting to disarm a police officer after an incident in Whitehorse on Feb. 18. (Phil McLachlan/Capital News)
Man resists arrest, assaults officer

A Whitehorse man has been charged with assaulting and attempting to disarm… Continue reading

Yukon Energy in Whitehorse on Aug. 4, 2020. A site on Robert Service Way near the Alaska Highway has been selected as the future home of Yukon Energy’s energy storage project. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Site selected for Yukon Energy battery project

Planned to be in service by the end of 2022

Most Read