A management plan is under preparation for the North Slope of the Yukon, a large area in the upper part of the territory with rugged tundra, mountains and ocean coastline.
Once completed, the plan will ensure that the next generation of Inuvialuit continue to exercise their rights to the land, said Billy Storr, interim chair of the Yukon North Slope Wildlife Management Advisory Council, the organization at the origin of the plan.
“The wildlife will be protected there and we will be able to continue our cultural use of the land,” he said.
The draft wildlife conservation and management plan offers several recommendations aimed at ensuring the health of the land and wildlife.
Recommendations include habitat protection, creation of indigenous protected and conserved areas, implementation of a regional economic strategy, strengthening of transboundary agreements and efforts to combat climate change.
âWhat’s important about this plan is an attempt to close the hole in the donut in custody plans, you know,â said Lindsay Staples, the former chairman of the board (Staples recently retired.)
The process stems from the Inuvialuit Final Agreement, a preeminent land claim signed in 1984 which, in part, provides for the participation of the Inuvialuit on several co-management boards in their designated region.
The most important users in the region do not live in the Yukon. But the fact that they live in the NWT does not diminish the strength of their attachment to the region.– Lindsay Staples
The North Slope of the Yukon is part of the Inuvialuit Settlement Region and measures over 18,000 square kilometers. There is also a strip of coastline that stretches 343 kilometers along the Beaufort Sea.
If you look at a map of the Yukon, the North Slope is wedged between the Old Crow Plains and the Territory’s Coastal Plain.
“[The plan] is really going to give some kind of recognition to the area and the use of the area for people that a lot of people in the Yukon don’t know, âStaples said.
âI mean, the most important users in the area don’t live in the Yukon. But the fact that they live in the Northwest Territories does not diminish the strength of their attachment to the region.
“A hot spot for climate change”
The plan also addresses climate change, the impacts of which, according to the plan, should be monitored, investigated and mitigated.
“Global warming is already changing the range of species found in the region,” the report said.
According to the plan, muskoxen, grizzly bears, bowhead whales and the Porcupine caribou herd, among others, are found in the area.
“Caribou are a key factor in the ecosystem, altering landscapes, supporting predators and circulating nutrients,” the plan says. âThese are the most important North Slope wildlife species for the Inuvialuit harvest.
It also indicates that habitat belonging to the Porcupine caribou herd is being âtransformedâ by climate change.
The plan recommends that their habitat provide additional protection, particularly at Aullaviat / Aunguniarvik – an area in the eastern part of the northern slope that has been withdrawn from development since 1980 (the western part of the slope is home to Ivvavik National Park, which includes its own conservation measures mandated by the federal government.)
The plan recommends that measures to manage and reduce greenhouse gas emissions be “incorporated into ongoing and planned activities on the North Slope of the Yukon and in the assessment of development proposals.”
Examples include proposals for offshore oil and gas exploration and development, which could damage permafrost and wetlands, the plan says.
âFrankly, when it comes to the Canadian North, it’s probably about as difficult as it gets as a climate change hotspot,â Staples said. âThe level of landscape change and the effect on wildlife is dramatic.
[The plan] really provides a framework, a set of recommended initiatives that organizations and governments could consider and pursue in an effort to meet the requirements of the area – not just for wildlife, but also for people, âhe said. added.
Now that a period of public feedback is over, attention will shift to developing a recommended final plan, Staples said, adding that one will likely be completed in the fall.
The plan has limits, however, he said.
âAt the end of the day, it really depends on the political will of, you know, the aboriginal governments and their organizations and the territorial and federal governments to sort of meet these demands. “