Staking claims on ski trails

Ski trails used by more than 1,200 Whitehorse skiers are being encroached upon by mineral stakers, says Jim Gilpin.

Ski trails used by more than 1,200 Whitehorse skiers are being encroached upon by mineral stakers, says Jim Gilpin.

“We want to secure long-term land tenure over the land our trails pass on,” said Gilpin, vice-president of the Whitehorse Cross-Country Ski Club, who is concerned about widespread mineral staking on city land.

Currently,

there are 800 hectares of ski trails within the city that can be staked without notice.

Gilpin is hoping the 2009 Official Community Plan Review process will uphold the current land designations of “parkland” and “greenspace,” though he understands the designations don’t have much teeth.

“We believe the city is doing everything in its power to ensure trails are protected,” said Gilpin. “Unfortunately, the city doesn’t have sufficient power to protect these trails, which are on unoccupied Crown land open to staking.”

The city can stop mining from occurring within city limits, but anyone can stake a mining claim anywhere they wish so long as they are over the age of 18 and have paid the $10 licence fee.

“If mining is never to be allowed then why is staking?” asked Gilpin.

Whitehorse officials have no power to prohibit staking in the city, said Mike Gau, manager of planning and development services.

The city can apply to the Yukon government to temporarily or permanently withdraw city land from staking, but the ultimate decision falls on the minister of the Department of Energy, Mines and Resources.

Land has only been withdrawn once, in the ‘80s, said Gau.

The ski club has raised the issue over the last couple of years, but city officials haven’t applied to protect the trails from staking.

Even those who aren’t skiers are concerned about staking, said Gau.

“In the public consultations held this spring for the 2009 Official Community Plan review, a majority of respondents in the [nonscientific] survey said they would like to see a ban on staking in the city,” said Gau.

Gilpin has met with Yukon government officials, but they seem ambivalent about the issue.

“It’s pretty fair to say that they [the government] are passing the buck,” said Gilpin.

Energy, Mines and Resources officials did not respond to interview requests before press time.

In October 2007, the club dealt with a “rush of staking” that happened on their trails.

The ski club has a licence of occupation for the ski trails, but this doesn’t provide any level of protection, said Gilpin.

“It’s a low level of tenure … it doesn’t give much status if staking were to occur,” he said.

Gilpin wants to see more open discussion on the issue.

“There needs to be a policy change,” he said. “Staking on developed land in the city is inappropriate. The Yukon government has the power to withdraw lands from [staking], but the current government is very pro-mining and unlikely to do so.”

Even with the little success they have received thus far, Gilpin is vowing to continue applying political pressure to both levels of government.

“Simply designating spaces as ‘park’ or as ‘greenspaces’ doesn’t ensure their protection … it can only be ensured with the support and co-operation of the Yukon government,” said Gilpin at the council meeting.

Contact Vivian Belik at

vivianb@yukon-news.com