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Yukon government shares state of environment

Report contains monitoring data related to air, water, land, fish and wildlife.
Minister Nils Clarke speaks to reporters about the COP 26 climate change conference. (Haley Ritchie/Yukon News Files)

The Yukon government is sharing the state of the territory’s environment over the previous year.

The interim report provides updates on the territory’s air, water, land, fish and wildlife as well as the impacts of climate change.

“Our environment is changing due to climate change impacts and a growing population. We must continue to monitor the state of our environment across our land, air and water so we can plan, adapt and take action. Equipped with detailed knowledge and data, we can better protect our territory to ensure it remains healthy for generations of Yukoners to come,” said Minister of Environment Nils Clarke.

The report deals with observations from 2021 with many points of comparison to the previous year.

The climate change effects measured include the extent and volume of sea ice which is on a significant downward trend. Information on long-term precipitation and temperature changes were also included under the information on climate change. The report states that annual precipitation in the Yukon is expected to increase by between four and 17 per cent in the next 50 years. It also states that in the past 50 years average annual temperatures in the territory have increased by 2.2 C. The increase over the next 50 years is forecast for between 0.7 C and 3.7 C.

The report states that there was no new air quality indicators available for 2021.

Significant increases have been plotted in the amount of snow falling at nine of the 58 snow survey sites in or near the Yukon.

The climate report also charts the changes in water patterns in Kluane Lake due to the retreat of the Kaskawulsh glacier. This is thought to be permanent as meltwater from the glacier is now draining into the Alsek River watershed. Also of note were the record-high water levels observed in the Southern Lakes and Lake Laberge in 2021 with some peak water levels measuring more than 40 centimetres above the previous record flood.

Another notable trend is the earlier Yukon River ice breakup at Dawson City. The report states that this earlier timing influences the severity of the breakup.

The section of the report on the territory’s lands states that 92,307 square kilometres in the Yukon are now protected lands. This amounts to about 19 per cent of the Yukon’s total area. Amid an increasing Yukon population, recreational demands on the land are also rising back towards pre-COVID-19 levels. Campground occupancy was up 16 per cent over 2020 in 2021, but it still remains 20 per cent lower than the 2019 figures.

Also on the rise is the total amount of waste dumped at the Whitehorse Waste Management Facility, which increased by roughly 70 kg per person up from 570 kg in 2020 to 640 kg in 2021.

The report also offered an update on fish and wildlife monitoring work in the Yukon. It notes that as of the end of 2021 an estimated 244 different species of plants, animals and microorganisms that were introduced by humans have been located in the territory.

“Not all alien species harm an ecosystem. Some are introduced on purpose for conservation, in gardens, to increase hunting or fishing opportunities, and other reasons,” the report reads.

It differentiates the alien species that are not harmful from invasive species where introduction can cause loss of biodiversity, reduction in property values or the loss of resources that are important to humans.

Another activity reported on was winter tick surveillance. It was found that moose are bearing the worst burden of ticks which is consistent with observations outside the Yukon.

The report also includes information on the Yukon River chinook salmon escapement that did not meet goals with just over 31,000 fish reaching their spawning grounds.

The department of Environment also monitored the health of wild sheep and goats finding that the Mycoplasma ovipneumoniae bacterium that has been a scourge on their populations in other jurisdictions was not found.

Contact Jim Elliot at

Jim Elliot

About the Author: Jim Elliot

I’m a B.C. transplant here in Whitehorse at The News telling stories about the Yukon's people, environment, and culture.
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