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Enjoy it while you can

The great Yukon outdoors is there for all to experience and enjoy. It is also available for one and all to exploit thanks to lax resource-extraction laws.

The great Yukon outdoors is there for all to experience and enjoy.

It is also available for one and all to exploit thanks to lax resource-extraction laws.

This is going to cause problems in the future, even more so than now, thanks to the upcoming increase in the number of people who will be living in the Yukon.

Those reading this paper know that the Yukon is one of the last great places to live.

It will still be, one hopes, a fantastic place to call home in the future but it will be different.

To start with, it is going to be more crowded.

The world population is still going up, and current projections are that it might peak around nine or 10 billion human beings.

That is a fifty per cent increase over the current population of about six and half billion.

Some of that increase is going to want to live in the Yukon.

As other areas of the planet get more crowded or uninhabitable, the low-density open spaces of the North will attract people.

It is not just increasing human population that will ensure that Yukon census takers will be kept busy.

The current impacts of climate change are already creating environmental refugees; the next few decades are going to unleash many more of them.

This too will result in more people wanting to live in the Yukon.

The Yukon might not necessarily see desperate Maldives’ Islanders looking for dry land as their nation sinks beneath the rising sea, but the Yukon might see the follow-on effect those individuals will create.

Typically, immigrants and refugees to Canada move to large urban areas such as Vancouver or Toronto.

This could lead to the current residents moving to the Yukon to get away from the increasingly crowded bigger cities.

Local politicians and bureaucrats might not recognize these reasons as to why the Yukon population will grow, but they do anticipate it will grow.

The territorial government prides itself on being in growth mode.

One only has to see how proud it is of the most recent budget, the largest Yukon budget ever, to recognize that.

The City of Whitehorse anticipates its new subdivision of Whistle Bend accommodating about ten thousand people.

This is in addition to current lot infills in existing subdivisions and the ongoing downtown densification due to condominium construction.

The emphasis at both levels of government is always on growth.

Now is not the time to mention that this is the logic of the cancer cell, but it must be recognized that continual growth will have a negative impact on the Yukon land, the fauna and the flora.

Even if only the 10,000 anticipated Whistle Bend residents arrive, there will be a substantial ecological impact.

Those 10,000 people represent a lot of skiers and SkiDooers, heading outdoors in winter.

It is also a lot of hikers, bikers and canoeists in the summer.

An extra 10,000 people will also include a lot of potential miners, developers and farmers.

Somehow, all the present populace, the future populace, all their needs, wants and desires will have to be accommodated.

This can barely be done now through the current land-use planning system.

Given the pre-climate-change glacial pace at which this is happening, it is possible land-use planning will be done for the entire territory by the middle of the century.

And is spite of land-use planning the Yukon labours away under archaic laws such as the free-entry mining system and the current oil and gas disposition process.

These laws overrule land-use planning, thus negating a lot of values current Yukon peoples hold dear.

To truly experience the majestic beauty that is the Yukon, get out there and enjoy it now.

There is a tidal wave of humanity coming.

Given the current lack of planning and foresight in protecting the land, the Yukon natural landscape will soon be changing beyond recognition.

Lewis Rifkind is a Whitehorse based part-time environmentalist.