Kluane Research Station catches a break

The Kluane Lake Research Station has had its death sentence commuted. Last week it looked like the research facility was going to have to close its doors after the federal government suspended its funding.

The Kluane Lake Research Station has had its death sentence commuted.

Last week it looked like the research facility was going to have to close its doors after the federal government suspended its funding.

But after the station crew met with Yukon MP Ryan Leef earlier this week, the government came through with $80,000 to keep the station running.

It’s $20,000 less than what the research station was working with, but it means that the station can finish out the year, said station manager Sian Williams.

“It’s a little bit short, but we’re going from zero to that, so it’s a big improvement,” she said. “I was surprised.

“Everyone says government never changes its mind about anything, but they definitely were willing to look for solutions on this and move on it quite quickly, so that’s been really good.

“When Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada pulled the station’s funding earlier this year, the contributing universities also followed. With the restoration of the funding everybody’s onside again,” said Williams.

“It’s been a real roller-coaster ride, but we’re coming through it well,” she said.

The government announced a ban on new funding applications to the NSERC Major Resources Support Program earlier this year so it could start a consultation process with the scientific community, with an aim to streamline and consolidate the various federal funding bodies.

Because the Kluane Lake Research Station’s three-year funding commitment was up at the end of April, initially it looked like it was going to have to be shut down.

For the station, which has been in operation for more than 50 years, and the Kluane residents, it came as quite a shock.

But they weren’t the only ones caught off guard.

“I was obviously surprised, but I don’t make quick, emotional reactions to those sorts of things,” MP Ryan Leef. “I heard about it and said, ‘OK, we just need to get to the bottom of it, find out exactly what this means.’”

He got on the phone with the research station to set up a meeting and called the minister in charge of NSERC, Gary Goodyear.

“Almost as quick as we were starting the enquiries, we were advised that it was a moratorium and that bridge funding was in place to keep Kluane going,” said Leef.

While it’s good news, the research station isn’t off death row yet.

Over the next year, the federal government is going to be scrutinizing all of its funding programs.

In the meantime, the major resources support program, which funds the Kluane Lake Research Station and 36 others across the country, is on hiatus.

“The moratorium is only for new applications and it’s only for the year while we study and get consultations from those very same scientists and others on how we can do a better job of assisting them in what they do best, which is make the discoveries that keep our economy going,” said Goodyear in an interview last week.

The crew at the Kluane Research Station is confident that they’ll be able to make a good case for their work as the consultation process gets underway.

“It’s going to be a lot of work,” said Williams. “But it’s more about communicating what we’re doing here.

“We don’t have to do anything different. We just have to communicate it to the government and hopefully that will be receptive to our results.”

Leef has also committed to helping in any way he can.

“I don’t imagine there’s much I can do, though I’m willing,” he said. “I’ve met the folks out there. They’re a quality and skilled group of people, and I have the utmost confidence that they’ll be able to hold their own and do it quite well.

“I’m certainly prepared to make sure that they get a fair shake and access and opportunity to present what it is they do for all of us.”

Contact Josh Kerr at joshk@yukon-news.com

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