Category: Currie Dixon Letters

We all have a common interest in water

Currie Dixon, Minister of Environment

As submitted to the Whitehorse Star on Friday, July 25th, 2014
by Currie Dixon, Minister of Environment

The Yukon Water Strategy and Action Plan was recently released to the public. The purpose behind this document is to recognize the common interest of all water managers in the territory – federal, First Nation and municipal governments, as well as the Yukon government – enabling everyone involved to work toward common goals.

The strategy details a vision, principles, goals and priorities for Yukon water. It also identifies 55 specific actions that the Yukon government will undertake within each of these priority areas: understanding and managing Yukon’s groundwater; planning for needs now and in the future; improving management programs; maintaining or improving access to safe drinking water; and promoting sustainable water use. We also aim to improve the sharing of information about Yukon’s water, highlighting the importance of the proper management of this life-sustaining resource.

We’ll be making an investment of about $2.7 million over three years on projects like the installation of 25 new hydrometric monitoring stations, strengthening your government’s flood forecasting capabilities (through use of real-time data) and the hiring of a hydrogeologist to expand the existing groundwater program. Other planned projects include improving data accessibility and functionality, and formalizing a community monitoring program. This investment is designed to provide economic benefits to local communities and the private sector, as well as using training to increase the capacity of water managers.

Although this is ultimately a Yukon government document, the strategy recognizes the role of other water managers in Yukon and calls for stronger working relationships and a more coordinated approach to water management. Specifically, we will collaborate with water partners and stakeholders to enhance protection measures for groundwater, work towards greater consistency in identifying community needs in the development of water systems, and increase education and outreach activities on water-related data and information.

We also plan to host a Water Forum in Yukon to exchange information, collaboratively address water issues and promote continuous improvements.

The Yukon Water Strategy and Action Plan provides us with a comprehensive approach for making water management decisions. Effectiveness on the implementation of the Strategy will be monitored by a Yukon government interdepartmental working group that will produce an evaluation and report on progress after five years.

As stated in the strategy, it is our vision that the quality, quantity and overall health of waters flowing through Yukon lands are sustained for all living things now and in the future. We’re embarking on these principles and 55 action items with sustainability, conservation, adaptability, security, stewardship, cooperation, respect and communication in mind.

For more information, and to read the Strategy and Action Plan, visit yukonwater.ca.

Celebrate a decade of fun and learning at the Yukon Wildlife Preserve

Currie Dixon, MLA for Copperbelt North

As submitted to the Whitehorse Star on Friday, June 13th, 2014
by Currie Dixon, Minister of Environment

Ten years ago, the Yukon Wildlife Preserve Operating Society (YWPOS) formally took over the reins for the management and care of our territory’s most valuable collection of indigenous northern animals at the Yukon Wildlife Preserve on Takhini Hot Springs Road.

In that time, YWPOS has grown its operations to include world-class educational programming for adults and students alike, begun various research initiatives and provided better access for visitors through major infrastructure improvements. In fact, the preserve became an accredited member of Canada’s Accredited Zoos and Aquariums in 2012, and is now a mainstay of the Whitehorse tourism sector.

In support of the Preserve’s efforts to promote knowledge and foster appreciation of Arctic and boreal ecology, while continuing to provide a safe and healthy natural environment for its wildlife population, Yukon government has committed to a five-year funding agreement totalling $3.34 million. This will help to ensure the health and care of the Preserve’s animal collection.
To celebrate the growth of the Preserve over the last ten years, you are invited to spend the day with us on Saturday, June 14thfrom 9:30am to 6:00pm for the Annual Open House. Interpreted tours have been scheduled for every hour, on the hour. There will be themed walking tours and special opportunities to experience feeding of the lynx and arctic fox and/or a special tour of the Wildlife Rehabilitation Centre with our curator, Dr. Maria Hallock.

You won’t want to miss the newest springtime additions to the wildlife population, including 5 baby muskox, 7 stone sheep lambs, 2 bison calves, 4 lynx kittens and 4 mountain goats. Don’t forget to bring your binoculars and camera! Support the Preserve, and appreciate our wildlife by joining my family and me for face painting, a BBQ, ice cream and a special cake-cutting ceremony at 3 pm. All are welcome and the festivities are free of charge. For more information, visit yukonwildlife.ca.

I look forward to seeing you on June 14th for a great day at the Yukon Wildlife Preserve!

Eighty Thousand Square Kilometres of Protection

Currie Dixon, MLA for Copperbelt North

As submitted to the Whitehorse Star on Friday, May 23rd, 2014
by Currie Dixon, Minister of Environment

Last week the Prime Minister announced a National Conservation Plan that commits $252 million over the next five years for a series of conservation initiatives. One of those initiatives includes creating a national inventory of conserved areas in Canada.

While we don’t yet know the structure or process of developing this national inventory, we do know that Yukon’s contribution will be impressive. Yukon has a greater percentage of its land set aside for protection and conservation than any other province or territory in the country. Over 80 thousand square kilometers of our territory are identified as either parks, habitat protection areas, or some other form of protected area. That represents almost 17 percent of our entire land base.

To put that in perspective, Yukon protects an area the size of Massachusetts, Vermont, New Hampshire and Connecticut combined. Or, for our European friends, Yukon has set aside an area the size of Austria for conservation.

Most of these areas, such as Tombstone Territorial Park, were first recognized as special management areas in the land claims process before being formally designated at a later date. Our National Parks, which include Ivvavik, Kluane and Vuntut as well as our only National Wildlife Area at the Nisutlin River, involved national processes in their creation that relied on input from a range of Canadians.

Others, like the new protected areas in the Peel Watershed, were identified through the process of regional land use planning. In the case of the recently-approved land use plan for non-settlement land in the Peel Watershed, Yukon identified almost 20 thousand square kilometers of new protected areas. Those included the river corridors of the Hart, Wind, Bonnet Plume and Snake Rivers, the beautiful “Source Peaks” at the headwaters of two of those rivers, the ecologically significant wetlands complexes that are fed by those rivers and, of course, the Peel River itself.

I would be remiss if I didn’t point out that 100 percent of Yukon is protected by the Environment Act, the Wildlife Act, the Waters Act and a whole host of other laws, regulations, policies and practices that ensure that we continue to meet the goal of preserving our natural environment for future generations. Every year, through the State of the Environment report, we allow the public to monitor how we are achieving that goal.

When it comes time for Yukon to make its submission to the development of a national inventory of conserved areas, we will be happy to oblige. Our contribution will demonstrate that we are leading the country in environmental conservation, which is something all Yukoners should be proud of.

To learn more, visit our State of the Environment Report at www.env.gov.yk.ca.

It’s time for some new campgrounds

Currie Dixon, MLA for Copperbelt North

As submitted to the Whitehorse Star on Friday, January 17th, 2014
by Currie Dixon, Minister of Environment

At the end of each camping season, the Department of Environment reviews the usage of the territory’s many public campgrounds. It will come as no surprise to any of Yukon’s regular campers that the trend of campground usage is on the upswing. This is especially true for campgrounds within a two-hour drive of Whitehorse. Anyone who has tried to find a spot on the weekend can attest to the difficulty of the task and the lengths some people will go to secure their spot!

The popularity and high usage of our territorial campgrounds is a testament to their quality and is something Yukoners should be proud of. However, it also tells us that there is room for growth in our network of campgrounds. After all, the last time Yukoners witnessed a new campground being constructed was back in 1987 with the construction of Johnson Lake Campground near Faro. Needless to say, we are long overdue for a new campground.

The Yukon government recognizes this and we’ve begun work on a few fronts to address this need. Recently, Premier Darrell Pasloski and Khà Shâde Héni Dan Cresswell of the Carcross/Tagish First Nation (CTFN) signed a memorandum of understanding between our two governments which included the mutual commitment to develop a new campground at the Conrad site on the shores of Windy Arm. Backed up by Montana Mountain and the exciting mountain biking trails developed recently by the CTFN, and on the well-used South Klondike Highway to Skagway, Conrad will certainly make an exceptional campground that will be enjoyed by Yukoners and visitors alike.

We also identified money in our last budget for the development of a campground on the north end of Big Atlin Lake. We’re contemplating a medium-sized campground that would be similar in size to the campground at Kusawa Lake. Big Atlin is a beautiful lake with great fishing and incredible viewscapes. A campground there would take some pressure off Snafu and Tarfu lakes, which are overused and tend to be over-fished. The Yukon Environmental and Socio-economic Assessment Board (YESAB) recently reviewed this project and gave us a positive assessment with a number of reasonable recommendations to minimize the impact of campground development on the environment and on our neighbours in the area. The Yukon government will continue to meet our consultation requirements with affected First Nations and will take their views into consideration. As this project is on public land, the Yukon government believes that the decision should fall to the public government and will be issuing a decision on whether or not to develop this campground very soon.

With the possibility of campgrounds at both Conrad and Big Atlin on the horizon, Yukoners who enjoy our territorial campgrounds have much to look forward to in the coming years.

We will consider all opinions on the Peel’s future

Currie Dixon, MLA for Copperbelt North

As submitted to the Whitehorse Staron Friday, August 30th, 2013
by Currie Dixon, Minister of Environment

I would like to provide some explanation and context to my comments in last week’s coverage on the number of submissions government received in the final round of public consultation for the Peel Watershed Land Use Plan.

Absent such context and in the face of opposition parties deliberately misconstruing them, they could be easily misinterpreted.

First of all, it is important to remember the intent and design of the public consultation.

The Yukon government asked for input on a range of land management tools, designations, impact thresholds and concepts.

Significant work was put into developing these, and we asked that Yukoners take the time to carefully review what was being proposed and provide thoughtful and constructive input for us to consider.

This consultation was designed to provide Yukoners and stakeholders the opportunity to have meaningful input, not to be a referendum or an exercise in who could get more names on a petition.

Secondly, following the conclusion of the public consultation process, we released each and every submission we received (omitting names for privacy reasons) and made them available online.

Every individual submission, every group submission, and every petition we received is accounted for online.

Additionally, we hired an independent consultant to compile the data and summarize it in a What We Heard document, which was also available online.

That report notes that “the various consultation materials circulated to the public and the public responses do not constitute a survey from which statistically significant inferences can be made.”

The What We Heard document was a genuine attempt at accurately reflecting the sentiment of those who participated, but it cautioned against making inferences based on the imperfect raw numbers.

Finally, I should clarify my point regarding those numbers.

I was asked about a summary that tallied the number of consultation responses by theme.

I answered that these numbers were not of great interest to us.

The reason was that the overall raw numbers are completely skewed by the online petitions sponsored by various environmental groups.

In total, we received over 10,000 unique submissions.

One petition from the Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society (CPAWS) had 5,085 signatures, only 6.9 per cent of which were from Yukoners.

One petition from the Yukon Conservation Society had 1,729 signatures, but only 2.5 per cent were from Yukon.

We received 585 auto-emails drafted by CPAWS, but only four per cent of those were from Yukoners.

I’m sure the large number of Californians, Germans and others around the world who fleetingly clicked a link online to add their name to a petition did so with good intention.

It’s not that these numbers don’t matter; they do.

But they matter far less than the number of Yukoners who took the time to give thought to what was being proposed, and provided thoughtful and constructive input.

We were elected by Yukoners, to represent Yukoners, and ultimately, we are accountable to Yukoners.

There is no doubt that many Yukoners want to see considerable levels of protection in the Peel watershed region, and we respect that.

The input we received is valuable. We will take it all into consideration as we seek to conclude a land use plan that balances the long-term health of our economy, our unique lifestyle and, importantly, the protection of our environment.