See Yukon state of the environment reports

Yukon State of the Environment Report 2020cover

State of the environment reports provide updates on research and monitoring efforts for climate change, air, water, landscape and fish and wildlife in the territory.

The reports also:

  • give early warning and analysis of potential environmental problems;
  • chart the achievement of the objectives set out in the Environment Act;
  • give baseline information for environmental planning, assessment and regulation; and
  • help guide future decision-making.

Under Yukon’s Environment Act, the Minister of Environment must table:

  • a full state of the environment report in the legislature every 3 years; and
  • interim reports in the years in-between.

2020 report

The State of the environment report 2020 includes information available at the end of the 2019 calendar year. Collecting and analyzing data can take a long time. Some data can take several years to be analyzed and become available.

Read the full report

Highlights

Climate change

Trends in greenhouse gas levels

  • Emissions increased by 11.8% between 2009 and 2017. However, from a peak of 769 kilotonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent (ktCO2e) in 2011, emissions declined by 9.2% by 2017.
  • Transportation accounted for 62% of Yukon’s greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions in 2016.
  • Yukon’s total greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions for 2017 were 693 kilotonnes of CO2e.
  • Transportation accounts for the largest share of greenhouse gas emissions in Yukon: 61% of the total in 2017. Road and air transportation is a significant source of emissions in the territory.

Arctic sea ice extent and volume

  • Arctic sea ice is melting, reducing both the minimum annual sea ice area and its overall volume.
  • Based on trends, sea ice melt is accelerating, with most of the melt occurring in the past decade.

Long-term temperature variation

  • Over the past 50 years, winters are warming more than other seasons, with an average increase of 4ºC in Yukon.
  • Yukon’s annual average temperature has increased by 2ºC, which is twice the global rate.

Air

Levels of particulate matter

  • Data collected from 2012 to 2017 at the National Air Pollution Surveillance station located in downtown Whitehorse shows that overall, the amount of atmospheric particulate matter below 2.5 micrometres in diameter appears to be decreasing in Whitehorse.

Organic pollutants in air

  • The air concentrations of two pesticides, hexachlorocyclohexane and endosulfan, are decreasing at the monitoring station at Little Fox Lake.
  • Ten new flame retardants that are not regulated in Canada were detected in the air at Little Fox Lake. Air samples from 2015 to 2018 are currently undergoing chemical analysis.

Water

Snow accumulation

  • 2016 to 2019 have experienced below average snow throughout much of the territory.
  • The overall data generally suggest an increasing maximum snowpack over time, resulting from an increase in winter precipitation despite winters becoming shorter.

Extreme high and lower water in lakes and rivers

  • In 2017, two lakes (Bennett and Kluane) show significant declines in minimum water levels over time, while Teslin Lake shows significant increases in minimum water levels.
  • This has implications for the keystone Chum Salmon species, who migrate from the Bering Sea to spawn in Kluane River and Kluane Lake.

Water quality

  • In 2019, Yukon signed the Water Quality and Aquatic Ecosystem Monitoring Agreement with the Government of Canada. This agreement will make it easier to collect and share water quality data within Canada and supports community water monitoring arrangements with First Nations governments.

Yukon River ice break-up at Dawson City

  • Ice break-up on the Yukon River at Dawson City now occurs more than 7 days earlier on average than in 1896, when it was first recorded.
  • 9 of the 11 earliest recorded break-up events at Dawson City have occurred in the past 30 years.

Land

Population of Yukon

  • Comparing September 30, 2019 to September 30, 2009, Yukon‘s population increased by 7,216, or 21.1%.
  • Between June 2018 and June 2019, the total Yukon population increased by 709 people, or 1.7%.

Regional land use plans

Community and local area planning

  • All 8 Yukon municipalities have official community plans.
  • 8 local area plans are also in place for smaller communities.
  • Local area planning processes are currently underway for Marsh Lake, Fox Lake, Tagish, Alaska Highway West and Fish Lake.

Recreational land use

  • From 2017 to 2019, the Government of Yukon added 51 new campsites across the territory.
  • This includes 22 new campsites at Congdon Creek, seven campsites at Little Salmon Lake, 15 campsites at Tombstone Mountain, 6 campsites at Five Mile Lake and 1 campsite at Lapie Canyon.

Waste handled at the Whitehorse Waste Management Facility

  • In 2018, Whitehorse residents sent an average of 600 kg of waste to the landfill. This is a decrease from 710 kg in 2017.
  • 30% of waste was diverted from the Whitehorse landfill through recycling and composting in 2018.

Fish and wildlife

Species management plans

  • In 2019, the Government of Yukon and the Yukon Fish and Wildlife Management Board developed A Conservation Plan for Grizzly Bears in Yukon. The plan presents a 25-year vision for Grizzly Bears in Yukon and outlines the conservation actions recommended to achieve this vision.

Number of spawning Chinook Salmon

  • For 2019, it is unlikely the spawning escapement goal for Yukon River Chinook Salmon was met, with a preliminary estimate of approximately 42,000 fish reaching their spawning grounds in Yukon. This would be the first time the spawning escapement goal was not achieved since 2013.
  • The goal is to allow 42,500 to 55,000 Chinook to return to the Canadian portion of the Yukon River.

Monitoring wild sheep and goat health

  • M. ovipneumoniae was not detected in the 341 thinhorn sheep and two mountain goats tested between 2015 and 2019.
  • The m. ovipneumoniae bacterium was also not detected in the 83 Mountain Caribou, 50 Barren-ground Caribou, 5 Moose, 8 Elk, 8 Muskox and 3 Mule Deer tested in 2018 and 2019.

Earlier reports

Before 2012, reports were named by year of data collected, not year of publication.