The Yukon government has established new protections from additional mineral staking and land development in the McIntyre Creek area.
That means no new quartz minerals claims can be staked in the area. It does not prevent existing claim holders from renewing their claims, including the ones that date back decades along the perimeter around where copper mining used to occur, according to Premier Ranj Pillai.
An April 18 joint release states the government has done so by amending a prohibition of entry order under the Quartz Mining Act to make the boundary of an existing staking ban bigger. A new administrative land reserve, which puts a pause on approval for applications related to new dispositions on public land, has also been established to protect the area.
“To protect our environment and provide urban access to the wilderness, the Government of Yukon is implementing new environmental protections for the McIntyre Creek area,” Pillai told the Yukon legislature on April 18.
“As the MLA for Porter Creek South, McIntyre Creek is my backyard and I have long been committed to safeguarding this special spot, including during my time as a city councillor. This area has tremendous historical, cultural and academic importance for the residents of Whitehorse and they have been asking for protection for decades.”
Creating McIntyre Creek Park is a pledge in the 2021 Yukon Liberal Party’s platform and a commitment in Environment Minister Nils Clarke’s mandate letter.
In the release, the government is taking these steps to protect the area from mining and development that could impact future park planning. Pillai said the changes will provide the “interim protection needed while park management planning discussions take place.”
These steps are in line with the City of Whitehorse’s plans with the Yukon government to begin planning for a park alongside Kwanlin Dün First Nation, Ta’an Kwäch’än Council and Yukon University.
Pillai said the next steps will determine things like what the park entails and who is responsible for its maintenance.
“The City of Whitehorse is focused on ensuring everyone in our community has access to rich and diverse greenspace,” Mayor Laura Cabott said in the release.
“The protection of Chasàn Chùa/McIntyre Creek Park will ensure residents can experience these natural spaces for generations to come.”
In the city’s Official Community Plan, Chasàn Chuà/McIntyre Creek Park has been identified for a regional park.
“Regional parks are intended to enhance the quality of life of residents and visitors by providing outdoor recreation facilities and opportunities to experience nature while simultaneously promoting ecological health by protection and enhancing important natural landscapes,” reads the city’s plan.
A March 2021 report on the area by Michael Walton Consulting refers to the Ta’an Kwäch’än Council and the Kwanlin Dün First Nation historically using the lands in ways that supported their way of life and informed their cultures. In the report, the land remains culturally significant to these First Nations.
Outdoor recreation in the area is valued by residents of the city, according to the report.
“To me this means that this important wildlife corridor will remain a safe place for wildlife movement,” Dorothy Bradley of the Friends of McIntyre Creek Society said in the release.
“McIntyre Creek is the only safe passage remaining through the city.”
Yukon NDP Leader, Kate White, will be watching for the proposed park boundaries. She said she wants the park to extend from the Alaska Highway to the Yukon River.
“[It’s about] making sure that there is protected space all the way across to make sure that it’s continuous, and that animals can migrate,” she said.
White noted how long the process has taken to get to this point.
“A lot of the fight up to now has just been like having it designated as like a special place — protected park area,” she said.
She compared it to Stanley Park in Vancouver and Central Park in New York City.
The Yukon Party raised questions about what happens to the existing claims that are in that area and whether they will be expropriated or alienated, and if so, will there be compensation for those claims.
Yukon Party Leader Currie Dixon told reporters in the foyer of the legislature that McIntyre Creek is a “positive development.”
There are 26 quartz claims within the area added to the City of Whitehorse prohibition order, according to an email from John Thompson, who works in communications for the department of Energy, Mines and Resources.
In the email, while the department could not provide the area these claims cover, the new protection order adds about 10 square kilometres of protected area.
Thompson said the department does not track the value of claims.
Contact Dana Hatherly at firstname.lastname@example.org