Canadian Parks And Wilderness Society headquarters in Whitehorse on Nov.15. The conservation manager for CPAWS Yukon and executive director of the Yukon Conservation Society both say they’re optimistic about the Yukon government’s new strategy for parks and wilderness spaces. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)

CPAWS Yukon, Yukon Conservation Society encouraged by territory’s parks strategy

The conservation manager for CPAWS Yukon and executive director of the Yukon Conservation Society both say they’re optimistic about the Yukon government’s new strategy for parks and wilderness spaces.

The Yukon government released the 32-page Yukon Parks Strategy on Sept. 24. It contains 24 actions ranging from raising camping fees to partnering with Indigenous guardians that will carry the government’s approach to the territory’s parks into 2030.

In separate interviews, Randi Newton, conservation manager for CPAWS, and Coral Voss, executive director of the YCS, told the News that goals to create a parks system plan to manage parks more systematically rather than on a case-by-case basis and prioritizing ecological integrity and cultural continuity were particularly progressive and would bode well for conservation efforts.

“We’re really lucky to be in the Yukon and we have so many wild spaces, but the wild spaces we have aren’t endless and they aren’t immune from development, they’re not immune from being loved to death, and if we want generations down the road to be able to enjoy these same types of places and experiences, then we need to start thinking about conservation now and about protecting these places now,” Newton said.

“If you look to places like in southern Canada, that really didn’t happen until it was too late and so those opportunities are long gone, so it’s really exciting that we’re taking that proactive, thoughtful approach now.”

Having a set list of goals and actions, she said, also helps in holding the government accountable.

Voss explained that taking a bigger-picture approach was advantageous over looking at parks in isolation because “you’re ensuring that that network is interconnected rather than being siloed.”

“You’re sort of ensuring the management is happening at all (parks) at the same time in an appropriate way for all those regions,” she said.

Voss also said that she liked that the government appeared to be moving away from just operating parks to managing them.

“I think it’s important because … operating is looking at just keeping something running. Managing is looking at how you make something better,” she said.

“… It’s like having a house, right? (Operating) is like, ‘Oh, I have a plumbing leak, I have a water leak, so I have to fix that today,’ whereas looking forward (and managing) is going, ‘Okay, I know that my plumbing is 20 years old so I should probably have someone come in and look at it.’”

Another highlight, according to Newton, appears to be a shift in how new protected areas will be created. Many existing ones, she said, came out of Yukon First Nations final agreements, but with the strategy, they will can now be born out of regional planning.

“I think what this strategy and especially the parks system plan is going to do (is), it will help Yukon government provide really clear input on the territory’s conservation goals during land-use planning so we can work towards building out that conservation network,” she said.

Voss said she does have some concerns about certain actions — particularly, about the creation of a new campground with up to 150 campsites, and increasing the size of drive-through sites to accommodate larger RVs — but that overall, she thinks the strategy has struck “a really good balance” between conservation and getting people out on the land.

Both she and Newton said they hoped the government would continue to provide opportunities for feedback as the strategy is rolled out.

Contact Jackie Hong at jackie.hong@yukon-news.com

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