An assessment of mineral development adjacent to Kluane National Park and Reserve, Yukon
This study assessed the potential for competing land use along the boundaries of national parks in northern Canada to impact the wilderness character of these parks, using Kluane National Park and Reserve (KNPR) in the southwest Yukon as a case study. A survey on wilderness and park values was distributed to KNPR visitors to determine the relative importance of these values from the perspective of a park visitor. The survey results provided a foundation for the assessment of KNPR and adjacent development based on the most important wilderness characteristics identified by respondents: the preservation of wildlife habitat, the protection of endangered species, and ecosystem protection. Survey results also illustrated that, with respect to KNPR, park visitors value the opportunity to encounter untouched nature, to experience the wilderness character of a national park, and to view wildlife in a natural setting. A GIS-based approach was used to assess the compatibility of mineral development and the preservation of key wildlife habitat in the Kluane region with respect to the park. Key habitat for the seven wildlife species considered was primarily concentrated in the region adjacent to the park. There was also a high concentration of quartz and placer mineral claims in this region, including a proposed large-scale, open-pit nickel and platinum-group metals mine that is currently in an advanced state of exploration. Adjacent mineral development may impact the wilderness character of the park by compromising key wildlife habitat adjacent to KNPR. Other national parks in northern Canada also face similar challenges. As development in northern Canada increases, regional management strategies must prioritize ecosystem protection to preserve the wilderness character of northern national parks.