Learn about the Yukon’s approach to wetland stewardship

The Government of Yukon released its wetlands stewardship policy in January 2023. This policy guides how the government manages and protects wetlands in the territory.  

The policy outlines 3 foundational pillars to ensure the benefits of Yukon’s wetlands are sustained. 

  1. Building wetland knowledge 
  2. Managing human impacts 
  3. Protecting Wetlands of Special Importance 

Wetlands are ecosystems that typically have: 

  • water at or near the ground surface for all or some of the year; 
  • poorly drained soils; and 
  • water-loving (hydrophilic) plants as the main type of vegetation.  

In the Yukon, there are 5 classes of wetlands:  

  • bog; 
  • fen; 
  • marsh; 
  • swamp; and 
  • shallow open water. 

Wetlands perform services for the environment and people.

Some benefits of wetlands include: 

  • Supporting the Yukon’s biodiversity by providing habitat for a variety of plants and animals, including many species at risk. 
  • Safeguarding our communities from drought, flooding, and wildfire by controlling how much and when water flows into our rivers and acting as natural fire breaks. 
  • Acting as a natural water filtration system which helps keep our environment clean for both people and wildlife. 
  • Mitigating climate change by storing significant amounts of carbon in the soil and keeping this carbon out of the atmosphere. 
  • Supporting Indigenous rights to pursue traditional ways of life which rely on access to the healthy fish, wildlife and plant populations often found in and around wetlands. 
  • Connecting us with the land by providing and supporting areas for hunting, fishing, berry picking and wildlife viewing. 

You can find available information on mapped wetlands using GeoYukon. Several GeoYukon layers have wetland mapping information. 

  • Wetlands – broad scale. This is a composite layer of available regional or broad-scale mapping.  
  • Wetlands – 10k. This layer maps out the local wetlands of a portion of the Indian River watershed in central Yukon. 

The following layers use mapping data provided by Natural Resources Canada. They are known to underestimate the extent of wetlands on the landscape. 

  • Wetlands – 250k – Canvec. This layer maps out the extent of wetlands extracted from 1:250k scale national topographic maps.  
  • Wetlands – 50k – Canvec. This layer maps out the extent of wetlands extracted from 1:50k scale national topographic maps. 

You can find more local-scale wetland information in the Vegetation Inventory – 5K layer. You’ll need a GIS software package to extract data with the “Wetland Class” attribute from this layer. 

The Government of Yukon is working to map out all Yukon wetlands by 2028. We’ll add new layers as we do this work. 

If you have any questions on wetland mapping, email the Ecological and Landscape Classification: elc@yukon.ca

Many human activities can impact wetlands. This includes:

  • community and infrastructure development;
  • agriculture;
  • forestry; and
  • mining activities. 

The wetlands stewardship policy has guidance on how to minimize the effects of human activities on wetlands. This is done using a mitigation hierarchy. 

The mitigation hierarchy is a sequence of steps and considerations to follow. It applies to all human activities around wetlands. This will help manage the loss or reduction of wetland benefits. The hierarchy goes as follows: 

  1. Avoid impacting wetlands wherever possible. 
  2. Minimize wetland impacts that cannot be fully avoided. 
  3. Reclaim impacted wetlands. 

You can find high-level mitigation principles in the wetlands policy

The Government of Yukon processes applications for placer mining projects in or around wetlands on a case-by-case basis. The Yukon Water Board processes water licence applications for Class 4 placer mine applications, which may require further information where proposed activities overlap wetlands. 

If you are proposing a Class 3 or Class 4 placer mine and your project overlaps with wetlands, you may need to submit a field verified map of the wetlands on your mine site. You’ll also need to reclaim any wetland areas to the wetland reclamation standards laid out in the Ruby Creek Guidelines.  


Indian River watershed 

Class 4 placer mining projects in the Indian River watershed must follow specific requirements including the submission of a wetland reclamation plan. You can find out more by reading the information sheet on placer mining in the Indian River area


Mineral exploration in wetlands 

When you carry out Class 1 low-impact mineral exploration in or near wetlands, you must follow the mitigation hierarchy to prevent or limit your project’s impacts. You should avoid wetlands wherever possible when planning exploration programs. If you cannot avoid wetlands, you must use the wetland reclamation standards included in the Ruby Creek Guidelines for reclamation.  


If you have any questions on mining around wetlands, email mining@yukon.ca or contact your local mining recorder’s office

Wetlands of Special Importance are wetlands that merit enhanced protection because of: 

  • their unique ecological characteristics; 
  • the benefits they provide; or 
  • the cultural connections people have with them.  

The wetland policy provides enhanced protection for Wetlands of Special Importance. It ensures that new or future human activities will not cause the benefits provided by Wetlands of Special Importance to be lost or reduced.

The Government of Yukon is developing a nomination process for Wetlands of Special Importance.

There are currently no Wetlands of Special Importance in the Yukon. Many important wetlands are already protected by: 

  • territorial parks; 
  • habitat protection areas; and 
  • other land planning tools.