Klondike to make United Nations world heritage site bid in 2017

A committee led by the Tr'ondek Hwech'in First Nation plans on submitting a bid to nominate the Klondike as a world heritage site by February 2017.

A committee led by the Tr’ondek Hwech’in First Nation plans on submitting a bid to nominate the Klondike as a world heritage site by February 2017.

It’s hoped that the designation – awarded by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, or UNESCO – would help draw more tourist dollars to the area.

The Klondike has been on the tentative list to become a world heritage site since 2004.

World Heritage Project Manager Paula Hassard has been involved with the project for over 10 years.

She said the committee is currently working on finalizing a lengthy nomination dossier, consulting with various stakeholder groups in the area and writing a management plan.

“It takes a while to go through all of this and we’re still learning the process ourselves,” she said.

The plan is meant to show the World Heritage Committee the Klondike will be managed responsibly, said Molly Shore, communications assistant with the World Heritage Project.

“We need to show them we’re protecting the cultural values of the site,” Shore said.

“In some places they’re starting from scratch when creating a management plan. But since the Yukon is such a well-legislated place we’re pulling information together and putting it into terms that makes sense to them.

“We want to make sure it’s not a big fat document that no one can understand.”

The committee has also been in talks with other stakeholders such as the Klondike Placer Miners’ Association, the Yukon Chamber of Mines, the Klondike Visitors Association, the Dawson Chamber of Commerce and the Dawson City Museum. 

Shore said it’s important for everyone involved to know that activities such as placer mining can continue in the area despite the application to become a world heritage site.

“We haven’t been endorsed by the mining community yet,” Shore said, “but we haven’t truly been endorsed by anyone yet because that’s not really possible until our work is closer to being completed.”

Hassard estimates the committee won’t know whether it’s been accepted as a world heritage site until the summer of 2018.

The designation for the Klondike would increase tourism for the area and would also provide more investment and business opportunities, the committee has said in the past.

The Yukon government announced this week it was investing just over $116,000 in the project for the 2016/17 fiscal year.

A designation by UNESCO is given to international sites “that are of outstanding universal value to humanity” and meet at least one out of 10 selection criteria.

The Tr’ondek Klondike nomination will be submitted under two criteria.

The first one is an outstanding example of a type of building or landscape that illustrates a significant stage in human history.

The second is to be “directly or tangibly associated with events or living traditions, with ideas, or with beliefs, with artistic and literary works of outstanding universal significance.”

The World Heritage Fund provides about $4 million annually towards the preservation of over 1,000 sites.

The current list of world heritage sites includes the pyramids in Egypt, the Great Barrier Reef in Australia and the Great Wall of China.

There are 17 world heritage sites in Canada including one in the Yukon, Kluane National Park, which is one component of the Kluane/Wrangell-St. Elias/Glacier Bay/Tatshenshini-Alsek world heritage site.

Contact Myles Dolphin at