Wilderness Guide & Cultural Interpretation Training Program


WTAY and the Yukon First Nations Culture & Tourism Association (YFNCT) partnered to bring wilderness tourism guide training, interpretive training, and cultural knowledge to a select group of six Yukon First Nation youth. The goal of the program was to build and develop Yukon based guides with knowledge and understanding of First Nation history, culture, stories and language. WTAY and YFNCT believe that the opportunity for growth of cultural tourism within the wilderness tourism sector is an important opportunity for our members, First Nation residents and communities and our hope is that this pilot project will develop into an ongoing program.

This intensive training program took place during the month of May, 2018 with three of the six youth receiving summer employment with WTAY members.

The youth were lodged at Long Ago People's Place near Champagne and and received certification and training in Wilderness Advanced First Aid, Moving Water Paddling, Swift Water Rescue, Bear Aware, Leave No Trace, risk management, liability, Foodsafe, Superhost, Yukon First Nation 101 through Yukon College, natural interpretation, and cultural interpretation. Also included were visits to WTAY member companies and several learning sessions with First Nation Elders and Knowledge Keepers.

Cold Water Immersion

In September 2012, Matthew MacIntyre died whilst canoeing on Fish Lake, after his canoe capsized. The coroner's report noted that Mr. MacIntyre had rented a canoe from a Whitehorse based operator, and was planning on canoeing to the island in the lake, and back.  Mr MacIntyre and the friend he was paddlling with were both experienced in canoes, and were wearing life jackets, and carrying safety equipment.

The coroner reported that immersion into the cold waters of Fish Lake was a direct contributor to Mr. MacIntyres death, and that whilst the rental agreement noted that the renter assumed all inherent risks, there was no evidence that these risks were highlighted, or that a safety briefing occurred prior to rental.

The coroner therefore made several recommendations, aimed at WTAY directly.

1. That WTAY engage in discussion and education of members in accordance with their stated purpose and mandate, regarding:

  • the inherent dangers of activities (such as canoeing) either guided or unguided, involving cold water; and
  • updating rental agreements to include specific clauses with regards to the inherent, significant dangers of a sudden cold water immersion.

2. That WTAY amend it's Code of Conduct to include an expectation of members whose business includes activities with potential risks related to cold water immersion, to deliberately advise clients in writing and through a safety briefing, of the life-threatening dangers of cold water immersion.

WTAY has been working towards meeting these recommendations over the last year. Information regarding this incident and the recommendations has been distributed through the e-news letter.

In 2014, the Board approved a new Code of Conduct, after a large amount of work was put in to researching Codes from other jurisdictions and industries. Whilst this new Code does not specifically address cold water immersion (Code's are general documents, not specific), as part of the work done revising the code, it was highlighted that a Best Practices document would be better served to address specific issues such as cold water immersion and rental agreements. Work on this document is intended to begin in the Fall of 2014, pending funding approval. WTAY is also looking into the potential for a Fall Roundup event, which would engage members, and provide  a platform for educating them on specific aspects of the Code and Best practices.

Trails Only Yukon Association (TOYA)

Trails Only Yukon Association (TOYA)

WTAY has been in conversations with TOYA regarding their goals surrounding ATV use. These goals are:

  1. Designated ATV trails in the Yukon wilderness
  2. ATV legislation
  3. Effective enforcement
  4. Education

TOYA presented WTAY with a Common Beliefs Document and asked the board if they would support the beliefs listed below:

  1. We agree that there is a legitimate place for responsible ATV use in the Yukon.
  2. We agree that there is a need for ATV legislation/regulations to protect habitat and ensure healthy wildlife populations.
  3. We agree that both education and effective enforcement are necessary to promote responsible use of ATVs.
  4. We agree that different areas require different levels of ATV management.
  5. We agree that some areas of the Yukon be designated as non-motorized zones from April 1 to Nov. 1st.
  6. We agree that legislation/regulations be proactive and endeavor to prevent damage instead of reacting after the damage is done.
  7. We agree that ATVs be registered and clearly identifiable.
  8. We agree that it is our collective responsibility to protect the legacy of wild places for present and future generations.
  9. We agree that maintaining natural places is the key to survival of future wildlife populations.
  10. We agree that ATVs should be required to travel on existing hard bottom trails in alpine and sensitive wetlands areas.

The WTAY Board of Directors considered this document and have taken a position of support for this.

WTAY will continue to work with and support TOYA in achieving their goals.

More information can be found at http://www.trailsonly.ca/


Peel Watershed Protection

The Peel Watershed is one of the most environmentally valuable and culturally significant natural areas on earth.  Conserving the Peel is important to us, as it is for all Yukoners.  The watershed is home to unique and vibrant wildlife,  it is an ancient meeting place and spiritual centre for the Yukon First Nations, and it is a region that attracts visitors from all over the world.

For our industry, industrial development in the Peel means that we will no longer be able to offer an attractive and highly sought wilderness experience. Wilderness tourism companies have consistently been taking visitors down the Snake, Wind, Bonnet Plume, Hart, Blackstone and Peel Rivers for several decades.  Individuals are attracted to this area primarily because it offers a vast and mostly untouched environment, complete with its clean-flowing waters, healthy wildlife populations and lack of permanent settlements or developments.  It is these qualities that make the Peel watershed unique.

It has long been WTAY's position that the Peel Watershed should receive 100% protection.  Our belief is that there are countless other areas in the Yukon that are rich with minerals, so threatening the delicate ecological balance of the Peel is a hasty and reckless decision.  However, we were willing to accept the recommended Peel Plan of 80% protection, because it seemed to be  a fair and reasonable compromise agreed upon by the majority of Yukoners.

Yet, in the winter of last year, the Yukon Party announced that they would not follow the recommended plan.  Sadly, the government’s position to open the Peel to industrial activity and surface access is in complete contradiction to the conclusions reached by the commission after years of comprehensive research, analysis and consultation.

Since this announcement, WTAY has met with Minister Brad Cathers (Energy, Mines & Resources), Minister Mike Nixon (Tourism), Minister Curry Dixon (Environment), as well as members of the opposition.  WTAY had an opportunity to express our frustration and reassert our arguments on behalf of Peel protection.

WTAY remains committed to protecting the Peel Watershed as it is a key component to the sustainable future of the Yukon's wilderness tourism industry.

More Information about the Peel:

Peel Watershed Planning Commission
Protect the Peel 
Yukon Government: Peel Watershed Regional Land Use Plan
2012-12-05-Peel Press Release

Commercial Wilderness Lands Policy

Although there has been little movement in this area, WTAY remains dedicated to working with the Yukon Government to implement a fair and reasonable Commercial Wilderness Lands Policy for commercial wilderness operators.

Wilderness tourism is growing in the Yukon, and after big-game outfitting, it generates the highest earnings per client of any sector of the tourism industry. For decades, backcountry expeditions have been the mainstay of wilderness tourism. If the Yukon wants to increase the economic contribution from this sector, it will have to look beyond existing wilderness travel markets to underdeveloped markets: there is untapped capacity and potential in commercial wilderness lodges.  In order to reach this market, the Yukon needs new product.

For almost two decades, lack of policy has made it impossible for wilderness tourism operators and investors to apply for or obtain backcountry land to develop new wilderness tourism products. Because most provinces, territories and Alaska, have policies in place for obtaining back country land for tourism, Yukon's economic opportunities are being lost to competitive destinations that are successfully developing and marketing sustainable, high-end remote wilderness products, supported by small lodges, cabins and other infrastructure.

Most other resource-based industries have access to land through policy or legislation. (i.e. agriculture, mining, oil & gas, forestry). Suitable locations for backcountry tourism development are becoming very limited, especially on lakes or rivers. There is a real concern that opportunities for growth will be lost if the Commercial Wilderness Lands policy is not developed soon.

Wilderness tourism operators have waited and watched intently while other land policies have moved ahead (Big Game Outfitting and Agriculture Policies). WTAY supported proceeding with the Big Game Outfitters policy in 2002 with the understanding that work on a Commercial Wilderness Lands policy would follow within a reasonable period of time. WTAY also agreed to wait until devolution was complete to begin formal work on a policy. In February 2003, WTAY wrote to Premier Fentie asking that work begin on this. In his March 19, 2003 response, Premier Fentie suggested that WTAY meet with Tourism and EMR Lands staff to discuss how to proceed with the Commercial Wilderness Lands policy.  After a significant amount of well-developed research, countless meetings, and numerous years, wilderness operators are still awaiting movement on the creation of a policy.

At a formal meeting, in December 2011, EMR explained that the slow down on the policy was partially due to First Nations government and partially due to the Outfitters policy. There is a commitment to change the Outfitters policy because as it stands, the outfitters are dissatisfied.  WTAY explained that we have  no objection to working with the Yukon Outfitters Association or the non-represented outfitters, as long as there is no priority given to them.  In fact, WTAY requested that the Yukon Government facilitate a "round-table" discussion that includes all stakeholders.

If you have an invested interest in the development of land tenure for commercial wilderness operators and would like to get more involved, please contact the office at 867-668-3369 or info@wtay.com.

More Information About the CWL Policy

Big Game Outfitting Lands Policy Application
Yukon Land Application Glossary of Terms

Yukon Commercial Wilderness Lands Policy Research Project (2005) by David Loeks is available upon request at the WTAY office.

Clean the Currents

WTAY has been looking into carrying out a clean up along the Yukon River corridor.

With the help of the Whitehorse, Carmacks, and Dawson City communities we hope to eliminate the built up waste and minimize the impact of individuals who have travelled and will be travelling along the Yukon River corridor.  Alongside this, WTAY will be facilitating 'Leave No Trace' workshops and natural history interpretation seminars, to provide additional outdoor ethics knowledge to anyone interested.  We also hope to offer several information sessions for the public who intend to take self-guided trips on any of the Yukon rivers.

At this time, the project is on hold, due to the scale of work required.

If you are able to help, are interested in donating your time and/or sponsoring an element of this project, please contact Chris Wilkinson at info@wtay.com



Sled Dog Standards of Care Workshop

Once upon a time, dog mushing was the only means of transportation and communication during the North's harsh winters; today Yukoners—and adventuresome visitors—keep the mushing tradition alive and well.

Recently, the government of British Columbia released their Sled Dog Standards of Care Regulations--a set of mandatory requirements that seeks to ensure that the mental and physical welfare of these animals is maintained and protected.

Considering that dog-sledding is such a vital part of our history and industry, WTAY wants to know what our members think about these regulations.  Do you agree with these standards?  Are they too relaxed?  Too harsh? Should the Yukon adopt similar regulations? If so, what changes will need to be made?  How will they be enforced?

This fall, WTAY invited all interested parties to a 'round-table' workshop about sled-dog standards of care.  Over 20 participants attended--including representatives from wilderness tourism businesses, the Yukon Quest, independent sled dog owners and kennel operators, and members of DPSAY--resulting in a though-provoking and valuable discussion.  In the end, the group agreed that our territory should create industry-specific standards of care for sled dog operators.

Due to the unanimous decision in favour of regulation development, the group discussed how they would like to proceed.  WTAY informed the group that, at the very least, the fact that every participant was in favour of regulations suggests that WTAY should add a section to their Code of Conduct regarding operators offering ‘Dog-Sledding’ as an activity.  Although this will not provide any weight for legal enforcement, it will be the first steps to change and progress in this area.

The group agreed that the best approach was to make it an open discussion and to encourage as much input from the industry as possible.  It was also agreed that the group would like something developed (i.e. a web page, forum, etc…) where the discussion can be done electronically (as it will encourage more involvement from operators in communities).

WTAY suggested that we circulate a ‘discussion form’ asking questions about regulations.  This form was sent out at the end of October (and can be accessed via a link below).  Once this data is collected, another meeting will be called.  Only when a list of agreed upon standards are created will we consider how to enforce these proposed regulations.

If you would like to get more actively involved in this project, please contact Justine Hobbs at 668-3369 or via email at justine@wtay.com.

More Information About Sled Dog Regulations

Ministry of Agriculture - Protection for Sled Dogs in BC
Animal Protection Act - Yukon
Sled Dog Questionnaire


Update Jan 2014:

After spending many hours on this project, it reached a point where project funding would be required to research and draft a Best practices document. After careful consideration, the WTAY board felt it could not devote this much time and money to one specific sector of the Wilderness Tourism industry, but would be willing to support and participate in any working groups that developed if another proponent was willing to take the lead on the project. This decision was also precipitated by the need for WTAY to focus on revising it`s Code of Conduct for all members.

WTAY sees the value of this project and is eager to participate, once we receive word that someone has taken on the project lead.

Crisis Communications Binder

By its very nature, wilderness tourism brings with it a high level of risk.  Is your business prepared for an unforeseen crisis?  Would you know who to contact? Would you know when and how to respond?

WTAY, with the help of Davis Communications and the Department of Tourism & Culture, is putting together a 'Crisis Communications Binder' for the wilderness tourism sector.

As well, WTAY has provided our members with a 'Crisis Plan Template.'  Below you will find examples of the documents you will need to complete your own plan.

* Crisis Timeline
* Business Profile
* Contact Fan Out List
* Media List
* Response Preparedness



Safety Tips for Commercial Drivers

In the Spring of 2012, WTAY consulted with Nick Tilgner (certified by the Canadian Safety Council and instructor of Driver Training courses in the Yukon, Ontario and for the Canadian Armed Forces) to design and develop a training course for commercial drivers in the tourism sector.

This course was created specifically for Yukon roads and focuses primarily on the wilderness adventure tourism industry.  Elements of this course include:

* Pre-Trip Inspection
* Driver Check
* Safe Loading and Distribution
* Proactive and Defensive Techniques
* Backing Up
* Trailer Use

To view the full PowerPoint presentation or if you are interested in having an instructor teach this course for your drivers please contact the WTAY office at info@wtay.com.

WTAY encourages all of our operators who use passenger vans to have their drivers review these safety tips before each season.