Register those cabins before you’re burned

On September 20th, when Ceaser Lake Outfitting landed on Gusty Lake, the cabin had been burnt to the ground and their aviation fuel was gone.

On September 20th, when Ceaser Lake Outfitting landed on Gusty Lake, the cabin had been burnt to the ground and their aviation fuel was gone.

“Fortunately, we didn’t have clients with us who had planned on using that cabin,” said outfitter Terry Wilkinson.

Their folding boat was also missing.

“If we’d been flying in there to use the boat and the lake during a hunt change, it would have been a major inconvenience,” he said.

Energy, Mines and Resources burnt the cabin to the ground on September 1st.

“From the condition of the cabin, it was clear it had not been used for a long time,” said land management director Lyle Henderson on Wednesday.

“There was no evidence of use.”

Land management has burnt down three cabins this year.

Gusty Lake – 125 kilometres northeast of Watson Lake – was one of them, said land-use manager Marg White.

“It was a well-built cabin,” said Wilkinson.

“I was dry – it was definitely livable.”

Energy, Mines and Resources first spotted the Gusty Lake building during a fly-over in 2007.

“We were not patrolling,” said Henderson. “We were not looking for unauthorized occupancy.”

The chopper crew just happened to spot the cabin and landed.

There were abandoned fuel drums; four were full and four were empty, he said.

“And some were almost in the water.”

The natural resources officers also found the cabin to be uninhabitable, said Henderson.

“There were animals entering and exiting and it was unsafe.”

But lands branch doesn’t burn cabins on the spot, he said.

“We don’t take an inspection report and immediately remove the cabin.”

Two years later, the officers flew in again to check on the status of the cabin.

“The guidance was, if the fuel drums are still there, please remove them,” said Henderson. “And if the cabin is still derelict and there’s no sign of activity – remove it.”

The officers found that nothing had changed in the past two years, said Henderson.

“So the cabin was removed.”

It was burnt.

It’d been three years since Ceaser Lake Outfitting used the cabin.

“I’m a big-game outfitter,” said Wilkinson.

“We don’t use it that frequently, usually every other year.

“But we used it.”

And it’s difficult to fly boats around, he added.

“So we just left our folding boat there.”

In August, Wilkinson’s brother flew into Gusty Lake to check on the cabin and their aviation fuel.

“We left 10 gallons there, just in case,” said Wilkinson.

The next time he landed, in September, the cabin, fuel and boat were gone.

“We filed a police report,” said Wilkinson.

But it’s not just the loss of the boat and fuel that worries Wilkinson.

Those cabins act as a safety net for everyone who uses the backcountry, from pilots and trappers to outdoor enthusiasts.

A cabin like the one at Gusty Lake could save a person’s life, he said.

“All pilots and helicopter pilots and float pilots knew that cabin was there, and if the weather closes in, it’s a safe place to spend the night.”

Energy, Mines and Resources had photos of the cabin.

The green shingles were peeling off, and there were a few holes in the roof of the attached shed.

Photos show the inside of the cabin torn up, with the stove on its side and foam mattresses strewn about.

The cardboard covering the log walls was ripped, but the structure looked dry and sturdy, with glass still in the windows.

If an unregistered cabin is structurally sound, lands branch posts it with signs asking the user to contact its office.

“It’s posted for six months to a year,” said Henderson.

After that, if no one comes forward, the cabin is removed, he said.

But Gusty Lake wasn’t posted in 2007, when the officers first inspected it.

And it wasn’t posted six months before it was burnt, either.

“The policy is they’re supposed to post a cabin before they burn it,” said Wilkinson.

If it had been posted, Wilkinson’s brother would have noticed the signage in August and could have contacted the lands branch.

It wasn’t posted, said Henderson.

“It was not operable and there was no evidence of use,” he added.

But even posting cabins isn’t foolproof.

Many outfitters only visit their secondary cabins once every couple years.

In that span, a cabin could be posted and burnt, before the user had a chance to return to the area.

“We try to work hard with outfitting and trapping to find out where the sites are,” said Henderson.

“We check our records and the history of the camp.”

After the Gusty Lake cabin was burnt, the fuel drums were flown out and the boat was taken to the Watson Lake dump.

It looked like a bear had torn the seats out of the boat and it was overgrown, said Henderson.

The boat’s seats are meant to come out, said Wilkinson.

It collapses to four inches by 12 feet.

“It was probably just collapsed, but they thought it was a piece of garbage and destroyed it,” he said.

The Yukon government became responsible for all remote land in the territory after devolution in 2003.

The Yukon wilds are full of abandoned cabins and fuel drums, some dating back to the gold rush, said Henderson.

Lands branch doesn’t actively seek out illegal cabins. Most are reported by the public.

“The government has to make sure these sites are dealt with when they come to our attention,” he said.

“And we try to work co-operatively with the trappers, so they have safe accommodation in the backcountry.”

There are 500 cabin leases, 400 traplines and 19 outfitting concessions registered in the territory, said White.

A lease application for an existing cabin(s) costs $26.25. To renew the lease, it’s $150 a year.

For now, outfitters can’t build any new cabins in the territory. But they can improve existing sites, said Henderson. Only trappers can build new structures.

“We have a good lease/licence system,” said White.

“Not a huge number of cabins are removed,” added Henderson.

“And removing the odd cabin doesn’t compromise backcountry safety,” he said.

“There are not too many places without fishing camps or cabins.

“So there are lots of structures in terms of emergency shelters.”

Wilkinson’s been guiding in the area for more than 30 years.

“I know numerous pilots who have landed on Gusty Lake waiting for weather,” he said.

“If they land there now, they’ll be in for a surprise.”

Contact Genesee Keevil at

gkeevil@yukon-news.com

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Yukon RCMP say they’ve received three reports of youth being extorted online. (Black Press file)
Yukon youth being extorted online

Yukon RCMP say they’ve received three reports of youth being extorted on… Continue reading

Fines for contravening the fire ban start at $1,150 and could go as high as $100,000. File photo
Yukon campgrounds will open on May 1 this year. (Black Press file)
Yukon campgrounds to open early

Yukon campgrounds will open on May 1 this year. The early opening… Continue reading

A Housing First building on Fifth Avenue and Wood Street will be taken over by the Council of Yukon First Nations and John Howard Society later this month. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
CYFN, John Howard Society take over downtown Housing First residence

The organizations have pledged culturally appropriate service for its many Indigenous residents

Legislative assembly on the last day of the fall sitting in Whitehorse on Nov. 22, 2018. Politicians return for the spring sitting of the assembly March 4. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Analysis: What to expect in spring sitting of the legislature

They’re back on March 4, but election speculation is looming large

d
WYATT’S WORLD

Wyatt’s World for March 3, 2021.

A man walks passed the polling place sign at city hall in Whitehorse on Oct. 18, 2018. The City of Whitehorse is preparing for a pandemic-era election this October with a number of measures proposed to address COVID-19 restrictions. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
City gets set for Oct. 21 municipal election

Elections procedures bylaw comes forward

A rendering of the Normandy Manor seniors housing facility. (Photo courtesy KBC Developments)
Work on seniors housing project moves forward

Funding announced for Normandy Manor

Tom Ullyett, pictured, is the first Yukoner to receive the Louis St-Laurent Award of Excellence from the Canadian Bar Association for his work as a community builder and mentor in the territory. (Gabrielle Plonka/Yukon News)
Tom Ullyett wins lifetime achievement award from the Canadian Bar Association

Ullyett has worked in the Yukon’s justice ecosystem for 36 years as a public sector lawyer and mentor

The Blood Ties outreach van will now run seven nights a week, thanks to a boost in government funding. Logan Godin, coordinator, and Jesse Whelen, harm reduction counsellor, are seen here on May 12, 2020. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Blood Ties outreach van running seven nights a week with funding boost

The Yukon government is ramping up overdose response, considering safe supply plan

Ranj Pillai speaks to media about business relief programs in Whitehorse on April 1, 2020. The Yukon government announced Feb.25 that it will extend business support programs until September. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News)
Government extends business relief programs to September, launches new loan

“It really gives folks some help with supporting their business with cash flow.”

Whitehorse City Hall. (Joel Krahn/Yukon News file)
A look at decisions made by Whitehorse City Council this week

Bylaw amendment Whitehorse city council is moving closer with changes to a… Continue reading

Susie Rogan is a veteran musher with 14 years of racing experience and Yukon Journey organizer. (Yukon Journey Facebook)
Yukon Journey mushers begin 255-mile race

Eleven mushers are participating in the race from Pelly Crossing to Whitehorse

Legislative assembly on the last day of the fall sitting in Whitehorse on Nov. 22, 2018. As the legislature prepares to return on March 4, the three parties are continuing to finalize candidates in the territory’s 19 ridings. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Nine new candidates confirmed in Yukon ridings

It has been a busy two weeks as the parties try to firm up candidates

Most Read