Yukon’s Changing Future


Land-use planning in the Yukon can help us protect and steward the things we value about this amazing territory – whether it is harvestable food, pristine lakes and rivers or abundant wildlife. But, as we embark on these planning processes, we also have to realize that the Yukon is changing. Climate change is already having noticeable impacts on our landscapes, and these changes will accelerate in the next few decades. If we don’t take these changes into account in our land-use plans, we could end up planning for the wrong landscape – the one that is here today, not the one that will be here tomorrow.

Chrystal Mantyka-Pringle/WCS Canada

How Climate Changes Affect the Yukon

In our subarctic world, an overheating climate forces all plants and animals to deal with a hotter and somewhat wetter world where extremes in temperature and precipitation are far more common. The results are varied but widespread. Plant communities, such as spruce forests, are already shifting in species composition and distribution in response to factors like drought stress or new growing opportunities. A variety of birds, mammals, and invasive species are spreading north and upslope as their growing conditions change. With warming water, cold-water fish such as salmon and lake trout are declining. More intense and frequent wildfires that burn larger areas are reducing the extent of older forests relied on by caribou, marten, and numerous birds. Flooding changes the extent and quality of habitats that fish use for spawning, that birds use for nesting and feeding, and that some mammals use for shelter. Faster melt of permafrost puts more sediment in streams, destroying some fish habitats.

This website is a hub of information for anyone interested in how climate change is affecting our landscapes in the Yukon and outlines steps we can take to reduce some of these impacts through smart land-use planning. It presents WCS Canada’s research and provides general and specific ideas for how we can plan for and adapt to the changing climate with conservation of fish, wildlife, and traditional foods and medicines in mind. Our goal is to ensure the future wellbeing of Yukon residents – human and wild – by putting this information to use in land-use planning processes.

We hope you will use this information to better understand why we must consider climate change in land-use planning and how we can work together to keep one of the planet’s last wild places healthy and intact.  You can also read our piece in the Yukon News on how we can better prepare for the changes to come.

Some key ways to address climate in our land-use plans

Watch a Message About Adapting to Climate Change in the Yukon

Conserve Large Areas – Conserve areas big enough to accommodate the impacts of a changing climate, especially more frequent and widespread floods and fires

Create Climate Refuges – Identify areas that won’t change quickly and conserve these areas as “climate refuges”

Establish Land Corridors – Ensure our lands retain “corridors” of wild habitats connecting large protected areas so that wildlife can move and adapt to a warming world

Preserve Lakes and Streams – Protect cold-water lakes and streams relied on by many fish, and keep generous stream buffers in place to provide shade and relief from warming waters

Evaluate the Effects of Industry – Consider the full range of impacts of timber harvesting, mining, and agricultural land clearing and how they could add to the pressure wild species are already experiencing from climate change

Understand the Importance of Intact Landscapes – Focus on the values of intact landscapes, clean water and carbon-rich ecosystems (e.g., mature forests, wetlands, and peatlands) and the unique roles they play in carbon storage.

Protect Old Growth Against Forest Fires – Plan to increase efforts to fight forest fires, especially when they threaten old-age vegetation communities that will take many decades if not a century, to recover



Learn More


Our Research

Key Issues

Land-use Plans

Hilary Cooke/WCS Canada

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