The Environmental Implications of Transportation Corridors in Northern Canada: A Survey Assessment of the Grays Bay Road and Port Project
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Road network expansion plays a significant role in shaping the environment, contributing to the current ecological crisis and climate emergency. Roads provide beneficial transportation services to communities, access to goods and services, and increased economic prosperity. However, the construction of new roads and road improvements are controversial due to their negative environmental impacts. Of particular concern are the impacts of building first-cut resource roads through intact wilderness ecosystems, as they open wild places to a cascade of new development. While the majority of Canada’s northern territory currently remains intact, maintaining this unfragmented land from the threat of development is an urgent task. Understanding the impacts of such road development and planning accordingly is critical to mitigating future long-term environmental effects. To understand the influence of roads in northern Canada, this study considers the current transportation networks in the territories of Yukon (YT), Northwest Territories (NWT), and Nunavut (NU). A literature review was completed to understand the negative environmental impacts of roads under Arctic conditions, including on wilderness character, wildlife, vegetation, atmosphere, hydrology, permafrost, and marine ecosystems. This review informed a survey analysis on the proposed Grays Bay Road and Port (GBRP) project being considered in Nunavut. This research aspires to highlight Canada’s role and responsibility in mitigating the negative environmental impacts of road development in the Arctic, which can be achieved with more stringent land use planning, cumulative impact assessments, and ecological remediation. This will inform future road projects in considering whether the perceived benefits of road network expansion outweigh the irreversible impacts on northern landscapes.