The Government of Yukon, Vuntut Gwitchin First Nation Government and North Yukon Renewable Resources Council approved the Ch’ihilii Chìk Habitat Protection Area Management Plan at a signing ceremony on May 17 in Old Crow.
The Ch’ihilii Chìk Habitat Protection Area is located about 120 kilometres southeast of Old Crow. It is well known for abundant whitefish, moose, beaver, muskrat and caribou hunting, and is a significant wetland complex. The area is used for subsistence hunting and is economically and culturally important.
The management plan will support conservation of fish and wildlife habitat; recognize the traditional, current and future uses of the area by Vuntut Gwitchin citizens; and preserve water quality and quantity.
The Gwich’in people have used the Ch’ihilii Chìk habitat protection area to fulfill cultural and subsistence needs and values since before Europeans arrived. Now, we are seeing the vision contained within our final agreement and the North Yukon Land Use Plan realized. Thank you to everybody who dedicated their time and expertise to make this possible.
Minister of Environment Pauline Frost
On behalf of my people, it is wonderful to see our past leaders and Elders vision come to fruition in our protected area network here in north Yukon. The completion of Ch’ihilii Chìk, or “where fish come out of the lakes,” represents our commitment to a healthy northern ecosystem and is our Vuntut Gwitchin nature legacy to share with the world and all living things. The Whitefish Wetlands are a special place to our people and a fragile habitat for fish and wildlife. The creation of Ch’ihilii Chìk was a truly cooperative effort through our Final Agreement. Mahsi Cho for everyone’s hard work!
Vuntut Gwitchin First Nation Chief Dana Tizya-Tramm
Ch’ihilii Chìk nijin łuk hiijaa, Vuntut Gwitchin kat giikan gwiindai’, ye’eenoo gwats’at, juk drin gwats’at yeendoo nakhwa k’eejit kat giikan gweheendaii. Juk drin gwats’at gook’ahanaat’yaa tr’igwałtsaii.
Ch’ihilii Chìk is where the fish go to, and the Vuntut Gwitchin have lived off it from a long time ago to today, and into the future for the young generation to live off. Today, it is protected.
North Yukon Renewable Resources Council councilor Joel Peter
The North Yukon Regional Land Use Plan approved by the Vuntut Gwitchin First Nation Government and the Government of Yukon in 2009 recommended special management of Ch’ihilii Chìk.
The planning process has taken several years and included community meetings in Old Crow and one open house in Whitehorse. A draft plan went out for public review in the summer of 2018.
The establishment of Ch’ihilii Chìk like other habitat protection areas is intended to preserve habitat, conserve natural resources and safeguard traditional First Nation practices. Habitat protection areas maintain important features of Yukon’s natural and cultural environment for the benefit of residents and visitors while respecting the rights of First Nations.
The Ch’ihilii Chìk Habitat Protection Area is made up of 75 per cent Vuntut Gwitchin First Nation Settlement Land, and the remainder is Yukon public land.
There are no quartz or placer claims, oil and gas permits or coal licences within the habitat protection area. Chance Oil and Gas voluntarily relinquished their lease in the habitat protection area during the planning process.
Fish & Wildlife Manager, Vuntut Gwitchin Government
Jason Van Fleet
Executive Director, North Yukon Renewable Resources Council