Unique Wilderness Venture Unveiled for North Yukon

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It's been over ten years in the making and just over three years in detailed planning, but officials are taking the wraps off a unique wilderness tourism bear viewing experience developed to attract travelers from around the world.

Vuntut Development Corporation and bear specialist Phil Timpany, along with the support of Environment Yukon's Parks Branch, have spent the past three years working on the new venture that will see small groups of visitors going in to the Ni'iinlii Njik Ecological Reserve between mid-September and mid-November each year.

"This venture puts forward a model for how communities and local governments can protect the environment, promote tourism and ecological awareness, and deliver economic opportunities for their local community," Premier and Minister of Environment Dennis Fentie said.

Those economic benefits will accrue to Yukon service providers from Whitehorse to Dawson City and Old Crow, and to the employees and beneficiaries of the joint venture with the Vuntut Development Corporation.

Premier Fentie said the initiative in the ecological reserve complements the government's Celebration of Parks program to increase awareness, appreciation and support for Yukon Parks among Yukoners and visitors.

Visitors to the ecological reserve will go to a site on the Fishing Branch River near Bear Cave Mountain, where grizzly bears congregate to feed on chum salmon. The area also supports a diversity of other wildlife species including moose, caribou, wolves, wolverine, fox and marten.

"This is an example of how we can protect the diversity of Yukon's eco-regions and life-forms for future generations," Fentie said. Whether it is for the cultural and historical values, scientific and educational, or our physical and spiritual health – special places like Bear Cave Mountain deserve to be celebrated."

Vuntut Gwitchin Chief Joe Linklater said the program will result in long term benefits for Old Crow.

"We can see this, and other similar activities, promoting Old Crow as a gateway to the Ni’iinlii Njik Ecological Reserve and the surrounding territorial and national parks, and a means to promote and highlight the North Yukon region.

"This protected area is very important to the Vuntut Gwitchin people. We are pleased to see our joint management of the Fishing Branch system, and Bear Cave Mountain in particular, progressing well, including the careful development of this unique wildlife viewing opportunity," Chief Linklater said.

The bear viewing program was originally negotiated in the Vuntut Gwitchin First Nation Final Agreement. Tours are expected to begin by mid-September.