Old bird camp demolished

The Nisutlin River Delta bird camp was torn down this week. The cabin and research centre in the middle of the national wildlife area and bird sanctuary had been there for 32 years.

The Nisutlin River Delta bird camp was torn down this week.

The cabin and research centre in the middle of the national wildlife area and bird sanctuary had been there for 32 years.

And that’s exactly the problem, said the Canadian Wildlife Service.

“They’re old camps,” said Barry Smith, regional director for the Pacific and Yukon region. “They’ve been there for many, many, years and they were in deteriorated condition. Our concern was that they were a health-and-safety risk. There’s risk of hantavirus, there’s risk of bad things happening there so, when you consider the health and safety liability that’s associated with leaving them in the state they were in, it’s just not healthy.”

But the loss of the camp could pose an even bigger health concern, said Kawina Robichaud.

As a summer student and research assistant, Robichaud spent a lot of time out at the camp and the decision to tear it down is “completely disconnected from reality,” she said.

“You go out to any bush camp in the Yukon and you’re not expected to find a pampered hotel room. But now it’s a safety issue because there’s people coming down this river that know that this camp is there, that it’s in good condition and that it’s been there for 30 years and, if there’s bad weather, they know they can turn back and count on that spot. Now if it’s gone, well, it can actually be way more of a problem for people’s safety.”

There are multiple signs around the wildlife area warning people they must be self-sufficient, Smith said, noting the camp is not in an extremely remote area and the federal service is not tasked with hiring staff, or providing services for people in the area.

And while they are aware people have come to use this camp inadvertently, it was never advertised for that use, he said.

People who use the camp were told it would be taken down, he said, citing the local Renewable Resource Council and Dave Mossop, the Yukon College instructor who was instrumental in the camp’s construction.

The 5,488 hectares of protected land is co-managed with the Teslin Tlingit Council.

They were also notified, and urged the decision be reconsidered, said Smith.

“But we really can’t,” he said. “The fact of the matter is because it’s on federal land and because on federal land we have very specific obligations with respect to health and safety and it would put us at legal risk if we were not to mitigate that risk, it puts us in the position that removing the camp is really the only option we had.”

And while it was considered, the federal service decided not to replace the camp, he said, noting further work and research on migratory birds in the area can be more extensive with new mobile technology.

But it’s having a firm hub on the land that is most important, said Robichaud.

“In this day and age, where people are becoming more disconnected from the land, it’s important to have these places of teachings where people can build this attachment to the land and understand and respect it,” said Robichaud.

Tearing down the Nisutlin Delta Bird Camp shows a disregard of its educational value to the hundreds of students from Grade 6 to university who have gone out there to learn, she said.

It also shows a disregard to agreements with local First Nations, local communities and the hard work that people, like her former instructor Mossop, have put in to making that camp what it was – a centre for learning, sharing cultures and connecting with the land, she said.

“I think this camp is extremely important,” she said.

Mossop is on vacation and cannot be reached for comment. Officials with the Teslin Tlingit Council couldn’t get approval to respond before press time.

Contact Roxanne Stasyszyn at