No data leaves wildlife in the lurch

The survival of fish and wildlife in the territory is uncertain. This week’s Yukon Fish and Wildlife Management Board 20:20 Vision Symposium…

The survival of fish and wildlife in the territory is uncertain.

This week’s Yukon Fish and Wildlife Management Board 20:20 Vision Symposium hopes to shed light on the issue, with input from Yukoners.

But it’s all guesswork.

“At present, the Yukon cannot provide information with much confidence on the overall status of most of its wildlife populations … it’s educated guesswork,” says the management board’s 16-page discussion document Managing Yukon Wildlife: How Are We Doing?

“It is noteworthy that such basic information is not available, as funding for inventories dropped in real dollars from the mid-1990s through the early part of this decade,” it continues.

“By comparison, both Alberta and BC regularly assess the overall state of their wildlife populations (which include fish, invertebrates and plants) and publish their findings.”

“We know how valuable baseline data is,” said Liberal Environment critic Darius Elias.

“So why, over the last six years, with record budgets, did we not collect this data?”

There are a lot of brilliant minds attending the symposium, added Elias.

But there’s little they can do without data.

“There’s concern on the South Canol Road that there’s no moose,” he said.

And the salmon are disappearing.

“I had an elder in Mayo choking back tears, asking me to do something about the salmon,” he said.

Under its own Yukon Environment Act, the government is mandated to deliver Yukon State of the Environment Reports every three years as well as annual interim reports.

Section 47 of the act reads: “The government of the Yukon shall report publicly on the state of the environment pursuant to this act.

The reports “provide early warning and analysis of potential problems for the environment; allow the public to monitor progress toward the achievement of the objectives of this act; and provide baseline information for environmental planning, assessment, and regulation.”

But there have been no interim reports since 2005.

This government boasts it has spent more money on mining, per capita, than any other province or territory in Canada, said Elias.

“But where is the balance?”

“Over the last number of years, the Department of Environment is very proud of its work in conjunction and in collaboration with a number of stakeholders, whether that be renewable resources councils, the Yukon Fish and Wildlife Management Board, First Nations, the Yukon Fish and Game Association, and so forth — working forward in a collaborative and co-ordinated effort to address issues of importance,” said Environment Minister Elaine Taylor in the house on Thursday.

“What we, as a government, have done in previous years and will continue to do is allocate resources where required.”

When will the minister table a current state of the environment report that includes valuable baseline data on Yukon fish and wildlife populations? said Elias.

“This information should already be on the table,” he said.

“Why do we always have to wait until we’re in wildlife recovery mode?”

The 20:20 Symposium, asking Yukoners for their vision of 2020, is taking place at the Yukon Inn until this afternoon.

All input is welcome.

Contact Genesee Keevil at gkeevil@yukon-news.com