Becoming a member of WTAY is contingent on your compliance with our Code of Conduct for Operating Wilderness Tours. By adhering to these principles, you demonstrate to the world that your company maintains the highest standard of outdoor and business ethics.
WTAY encourages our members to ensure that our Code of Conduct is reviewed and put into practice by each of their employees. We also urge our members to use the Code of Conduct to educate clients and Yukon visitors about low impact wilderness recreation.
You can review the Code of Conduct below, or you may obtain hard copies from the WTAY office.
Conservation of wilderness and biodiversity
Leave no trace
Historic and archaeological sites
The International Ecotourism Society defines “ecotourism” as “responsible travel that conserves natural environments and sustains the well-being of local people.” WTAY supports this definition and encourages its members to embrace the guidelines described in this section of our website. These guidelines have been prepared by WTAY in consultation with Yukon operators, First Nations people, non-government groups, and government departments involved in managing and protecting the Yukon’s natural and cultural resources. Ecotourism guidelines from jurisdictions around the world have been researched and incorporated where appropriate.
Wilderness tour operators who follow these guidelines will set an exemplary example for other operators and for all wilderness travellers to follow.
These code of conduct guidelines for operating wilderness tours were adopted by the Wilderness Tourism Association of the Yukon (WTAY) in October 2002.
WTAY would like to acknowledge the assistance of the Yukon Government’s Department of Tourism and Culture in the development of this code.
Wilderness tourism operators have a responsibility to minimize the potential negative impact of wilderness tourism on the environment and people of the Yukon, and to maximize the positive. Contributing to the work of conservation initiatives is one way to do this. For example, operators can:
- Support appropriate conservation initiatives (e.g., through donation of time and resources).
- Become familiar with current conservation issues and initiatives in the Yukon.
- Promote responsible conservation of Yukon wilderness.
- Promote responsible resource development.
- Oppose resource development that would have a negative impact on an existing wilderness tourism operator.
- Oppose resource development that can have a negative impact on critical wildlife habitat.
- Encourage recognition of environmentally responsible tourism as an important sector of the Yukon’s economy.
- Encourage clients to support northern conservation initiatives.
Wildlife viewing is an important component of wilderness trips. Operators need to recognize the potential for negative impact on the wildlife species they encounter and take precautions to minimize these.
To minimize negative impacts:
- Maintain ample viewing distance to minimize animal stress.
- Encourage the use of binoculars, scopes and telephoto lenses (300mm or more) in observing wildlife.
- Do not camp where there are signs of obvious wildlife use, such as nesting, denning, feeding or rutting sites.
- Don’t follow fleeing or retreating wildlife-to avoid separating a mother from her young, depleting the animal’s energy reserves, or putting yourself in a dangerous situation.
- Be especially wary of what seems to be orphaned young, as the mother is likely near by.
- Learn behavioural characteristics of the wildlife species you expect to encounter.
- Take your time and be quiet.
- Do not feed wildlife.
- Don’t approach nest or den sites.
- Be familiar with acceptable viewing practices for the areas and seasons of your operation.
- Don’t market wildlife viewing opportunities that are unrealistic or would negatively affect the animals being viewed.
- Know about regulations or restrictions that may apply in parks and special management areas.
tourism operators have a responsibility to maintain the wilderness quality of the Yukon in the areas in which they operate. WTAY supports the No Trace Yukon Camping Principles established by the Department of Renewable Resources (now the Department of the Environment) and outlined in the document entitled Into the Yukon Wilderness. They include:
- Plan to leave no trace behind.
- Camp and travel on durable surfaces.
- Pack in, pack out.
- Properly dispose of what you can’t pack out.
- Leave what you find.
- Use stoves and small campfires.
- Be considerate.
- When possible and feasible, pack out garbage left by others.
Acknowledge and respect First Nations’ culture and traditional activities as well as their concerns regarding visitors to First Nation cultural sites. Operators and guides need to:
- Learn about the First Nation’s culture and customs in the area(s) in which you are operating.
- Learn what is appropriate behaviour when interacting with First Nations (e.g., respectful behaviour when photographing First Nation people or sites).
- If cultural interpretation is part of your tour, consider using a First Nation member to provide it. If this is not possible, know what is appropriate to interpret, when and how.
- Know and understand implications of Yukon First Nation Final Agreements in your area of operation, and ensure that your clients understand their responsibilities as well.
- Ensure that your clients respect and understand any cultural differences that they may encounter in the backcountry (e.g., subsistence hunting or trapping in a park).
- Know which sites are protected and what is allowed and appropriate at those sites.
- Understand and respect the cultural significance of sites in areas you travel through.
Visiting archaeological and historic sites can be a significant aspect of a wilderness trip. It is important that guides and operators:
- Have knowledge of the historic and archaeological sites in your areas of operation.
- Respect the sites and leave any artifacts in place.
- Abide by guidelines set out by the Cultural Services branch, Heritage Resources, Department of Tourism and Culture, Government of Yukon.
Guides are the front line for companies in the field. The qualifications and temperaments of the guides relate directly to the quality of experience guests will have on their excursions into Yukon wilds. Guides should:
- Have appropriate levels of skill and experience for the activity being conducted.
- Have strong leadership ability.
- Be safety conscious.
- Have an appropriate level of first aid and emergency rescue skills.
- Be knowledgeable about “leave no trace” practices.
- Be well informed about the local environment and any conservation issues affecting the integrity of that environment.
- Be knowledgeable about the natural and cultural history of the area being travelled through, and be able to effectively interpret this to clients.
- Have interpersonal communication skills.
- Have good activity teaching skills (i.e. paddling, hiking, etc.).
- Have proper cooking and food safe skills.
The Yukon’s backcountry is perceived as an area of true wilderness where people expect to see few signs of human activity. Residents also expect visitors to behave respectfully in the backcountry as well as in their communities. To ensure this experience, operators and their guides need to:
- Keep noise levels to a minimum.
- Communicate with other parties to ensure adequate spacing.
- Respect other user groups and their activities.
- Ensure clients know how to behave appropriately in communities.
- Respect privacy and property of local residents.
- Be considerate.
To support the local economy and people of the Yukon, operators should make every effort to:
- Buy supplies locally.
- Hire locally.
- Inform clients of local events and where to purchase locally manufactured goods.
Recognizing the need to conduct safe trips for visitors, guides are recommended to:
- Be familiar with potential hazards and seasonal conditions in areas of operation.
- Have some form of reliable communications.
- Have an up-to-date emergency contingency plan.
- Carry adequate first aid supplies.
- Hire fully qualified guides.
- Have a guide-to-client ratio that’s suitable for activity undertaken.
- Educate clients as to what is appropriate behaviour with possible hazardous wildlife encounters.
Travelling in the Yukon wilderness involves certain risks, including the possibility of a bear encounter. Guides should be knowledgeable about appropriate bear safety protocols based on bear ecology and behaviour:
- Plan ahead. Learn about bear natural history and behaviour, how to identify bear signs, and measures to take to prevent bear encounters.
- Take precautions:
- Don’t surprise a bear.
- Don’t crowd a bear.
- Don’t attract a bear.
- If you see a bear:
- Stay calm. Stop and assess the situation.
- If the bear is not aware of you, avoid it.
- If you can’t avoid it, gently alert it of your presence.
- Know what to do if a bear approaches you or you surprise it.
- If a bear attacks, know when to play dead or fight back.
- Know how to use bear spray effectively.
For more detailed information see the Department of Environment website.