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Chris Rider

‘We’ve still got some progress to make’: CPAWS

Despite its vast amount of relatively untouched land,

By Sidney Cohen on July 25, 2017

Despite its vast amount of relatively untouched land, the Yukon is not first among provinces and territories when it comes to wilderness protection.

With 11.9 per cent of its land and freshwater currently protected, the territory ranks third in Canada, behind British Columbia (15.3 per cent), and Alberta (12.6 per cent), according to the federal Department of Environment and Climate Change.

Three more territorial parks – Agay Mene, Asi Keyi and Dàadzàii Vàn (Summit Lake-Bell River) – have been identified for conservation, which will bump the territory’s total protected lands up to about 13 per cent, or 63,275 km2, according to Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society (CPAWS).

“The Yukon is doing reasonably well. We’ve still got some progress to make,” Chris Rider, the executive director of CPAWS Yukon, said Monday afternoon.

CPAWS released its annual report on the state of protected lands and waters in Canada yesterday.

It found that Canada ranks last among G7 nations on percentage of protected wilderness, with only 10.6 per cent of land and inland water protected.

Germany, for example, has preserved 37.8 per cent of its lands. The United Kingdom is 28.5 per cent protected.

Canada also lags far behind other geographically large countries such as Brazil (29.5 per cent protected), China (17.1 per cent) and Australia (17 per cent).

Canada even falls below the global average of 15 per cent protection.

“Being at the back of the pack when it comes to protecting nature is embarrassing, especially given the wealth of nature we have inherited,” reads the CPAWS report, titled From Laggard to Leader?

Canada’s Renewed Focus on Protecting Nature Could Deliver Results.

“There’s no reason why we should be lagging behind at the moment,” Rider said of Canada as a whole.

“As a country with so much incredible wilderness, and wilderness that is so important in terms of the global picture, Canada really should be doing a lot more to protect what we have.”

Ninety per cent of Canada’s land and inland waters is public and managed by federal, provincial, territorial and Indigenous governments.

Canada committed in 2010 to protect at least 17 per cent of its land and inland waters by 2020, under the United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity.

The CPAWS report says strides have been made in the last year and a half, namely that 2020 targets have been folded into government policy.

According to Rider, the largest obstacle in the way of meeting and exceeding these targets is collective and political will.

Rider acknowledges the importance of resource extraction to Canada’s economy, but said governments must strike a balance between natural resource development and protecting ecosystems for generations to come.

“Wilderness is becoming so much rarer throughout the world,” he said.

“Canada is likely to become one of the last bastions of wilderness on this planet. For us to have wilderness here will be more valuable than anything you can dig out of the ground in the near future.”

Canada is home to 20 per cent of the Earth’s wild forests and 24 per cent of its wetlands.

Protected areas benefit species at risk; foster carbon storage, clean water and air; create jobs in rural communities and encourage outdoor recreation activities.

CPAWS would like to see up to half of the country’s wilderness preserved.

The organization is working with Indigenous governments, other governments, industry and NGOs on proposals for protecting 13 different areas across Canada, including the Peel Watershed in the Yukon.

“In terms of conservation gains that we can achieve in the near future in Canada, it’s pretty much incomparable,” Rider said of the Peel, which is about the size of New Brunswick.

“It’s just such a huge vast wilderness that’s still intact, and there’s nowhere else in Canada that we have similar opportunities.”

The Peel Watershed contains mountains, alpine meadows, boreal forest, sub-Arctic tundra, extensive wetlands and seven wild rivers.

The Porcupine caribou herd migrates through the Peel on the way to its calving territory in Alaska.

The Peel is also the subject of a heated land use debate that has worked its way up to the Supreme Court of Canada.

After a seven-year process, the Peel Watershed Planning Commission recommended in 2011 that 80 per cent of the Peel be protected from roads and industrialization.

The Yukon Party government at the time wanted much more of the Peel to be available for development and rejected the commission’s land use plan.

The move prompted a lawsuit by First Nations, CPAWS and the Yukon Conservation Society, which was heard by the Supreme Court last March. A ruling is pending.

Though CPAWS would prefer 100 per cent protection of the Peel, Rider said he will be happy with 80 per cent, which was the amount determined through a wide consultation process.

The Yukon Liberals have vowed to protect 80 per cent of the Peel, regardless of the Supreme Court’s decision.

Rider said he’s hopeful the government will follow through on that commitment.

“Right now we feel optimistic,” he said.

“We’ve got strong commitments from the new government, and at the moment, we’re happy to take them on their word.”

Comments (14)

Up 7 Down 1

Groucho d'North on Jul 31, 2017 at 10:36 am

If protecting the Boreal forest is such a vital concern, perhaps CPAWS could champion the value the vast forest has as a carbon sink? Give it a monetary value for the Paris Accord so that our federal government can include this in their calculations related to creating a carbon tax. But I suspect the feds are more concerned with acquiring more money than anything else.

Up 4 Down 3

Josey Wales on Jul 31, 2017 at 8:03 am

Umm....stu? In the value of being constructive for local discussions, if I may? In the attempts to disparage me by incorrectly spelling my moniker, to be more effective and less juvenile try...Josie Wails?
Sound more like a grown up then vs. your attempts lately.
Back in your echo chamber stu, enjoy the positive delusions.

Up 4 Down 1

ProScience Greenie on Jul 30, 2017 at 12:47 pm

Ask them yourself moe, why a park has never been on the table. You'll find LUP better fits the agenda of that group and their allies. Something to do with parks having tough rules and big fees. Follow the money of the groups involved which is easy to do in this small transparent territory.

Up 3 Down 7

moe on Jul 29, 2017 at 3:17 pm

Who says CPAWS would object to the Peel being a park, other than the repeated assertation by the person who operates behind the handle, 'Pro Science Greenie'? Is there any basis for this? It looks to me that CPAWS wants more parks. From this article alone, (on top of the fact that their name is 'parks and wilderness')

"Three more territorial parks ..have been identified for conservation, which will bump the territory’s total protected lands up to 13 per cent, according to Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society (CPAWS).

“The Yukon is doing reasonably well. We’ve still got some progress to make,” Chris Rider, the executive director of CPAWS Yukon, said Monday afternoon. "
Where does PSG get this information that CPAWS is against parks? Doesn't look like it.

Up 16 Down 2

Max Mack on Jul 28, 2017 at 4:43 pm

Excellent comment by Robert Scott. Diddo his comments.

Up 8 Down 29

Orxy & Crake on Jul 26, 2017 at 1:34 pm

Great article, and call to action for Canada and Yukon to step up. I wish I knew where to start engaging those with a mindset that we are somehow entitled to convert 'our' land into piles of cash and short-term jobs. Canada and Yukon indeed have 'vast wilderness', which is globally significant. The world is looking to us to protect not only critical habitat for wildlife that know no international borders, but also preserve our massive carbon sinks. Indeed Germany's and other countries old growth forests have already been decimated... why are we not willing to learn the lessons that those countries did centuries ago and protect what we have? If the only measure of success is the corporate bottom line, we need to change how we're doing business and embrace innovation to deliver us the jobs of the future rather than carrying on the status quo, which will see habitat for our most near and dear species fade away after being sold off to the highest bidder.

Up 12 Down 26

stu nanson on Jul 26, 2017 at 12:27 pm

Jose Whales

"CPAWS and ngo's
We need to get rid of these alphabet Eco fascist associations and enjoy the world we live in."
Jose, contribute constructively to community news or just be quiet.

Up 11 Down 38

bb on Jul 26, 2017 at 11:02 am

Good article. It shows just how little is actually protected in the Yukon, and in Canada. All the whining that goes on by resource extraction corporations about 'greenies' ruining their lives is a complete joke. For a country this big, with this few people, we should be at the front of the pack, not way behind in last place. Articles and numbers like this show just what a free for all this country actually is. There is in fact very little protection for our ecosystems.

Up 31 Down 11

jc on Jul 25, 2017 at 8:48 pm

And these idiots get my tax money. Let's mine out the Yukon then turn it into national park. In the meantime, get a job that means something.

Up 42 Down 7

Robert Scott on Jul 25, 2017 at 8:36 pm

We can't compare Yukon or Canada to Germany, it's apples and watermelon. Germany has destroyed much of their forests long before now. Putting aside 50% of nothing is nothing. In Yukon and much of Canada we have vast wilderness. So, 10% of our lands set aside far outweighs what Germany and most other countries do. Let's be honest here, the dangers that CPAWS and other environmental groups claim is that oil and gas, forestry and mining will decimate huge tracks of land rendering it useless for animal habitat. This is a huge lie and needs to be exposed. Further, right now in Yukon, 52% of our land mass has already been removed from staking mineral claims. That is more than any other country. Come on CPAWS, try telling the truth. Bob Scott, out of work Prospector.

Up 17 Down 5

Kent Petovello on Jul 25, 2017 at 6:24 pm

Handle CPAWS with great care !

Up 29 Down 3

ProScience Greenie on Jul 25, 2017 at 6:14 pm

It is odd that CPAWS doesn't want to see a park created in the Peel that would offer true protection from all forms of industry exploitation.

Up 31 Down 8

Josey Wales on Jul 25, 2017 at 4:00 pm

CPAWS and ngo's
We need to get rid of these alphabet Eco fascist associations and enjoy the world we live in.
I love in real time illustrating the hypocrisy of these "progressives".
They however...do not.

Up 36 Down 7

Nile on Jul 25, 2017 at 3:31 pm

CPAWS will only be happy when all of Canada is one big park and no one has work making US commodities that much more profitable.

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