World Heritage Planning Gets a Big Boost

The Yukon Government (YG) finally decided to sign on in a substantive way to the push for UNESCO World Heritage Status for the site designated Tr’ondëk/ Klondike.

The press release hasn’t been issued yet as I write these words, but I know, because I was one of the people who posed for the group photo with Premier Pasloski and two cabinet ministers during the Spring Conference of the Tourism Industry Association of the Yukon. The press release will be out there by the time this column gets into print.

At the conference, Minister Elaine Taylor announced a $382,000 commitment to this process over the next three years.

This application for World Heritage Status is intended to highlight the Gold Rush and the First Nations history of the area. Taylor said at the conference that this is one of the important developments in the territory right now.

She said the government is pleased to work towards the designation under the name Tr’ondëk/ Klondike. YG is also working with the Tr’ondëk Hwëch’in and an advisory committee made up of members local organizations, including the Dawson City Chamber of Commerce, the Klondike Placer Miners Association, the Klondike Visitors Association, the City of Dawson, as well as concerned citizens and representatives from several YG departments.

Full disclosure: I represent the Chamber of Commerce on this advisory committee, but my involvement as a journalist goes back to about 1996, when the late Pierre Berton contacted me to break the story of his original proposal.

Berton was primarily concerned with commemoration of the Gold Rush, but the proposal has been expanded to cover the ways in which different cultures have interacted and blended since then. This necessarily brings in both the pre- and post-Gold Rush history of the Tr’ondëk Hwëch’in, who have now taken the lead in promoting the project.

The First Nation employed Paula Hassard, formerly with Parks Canada before the 2012 budget cuts, as project manager. She and the committee, as well as a number of consultants, have done work that convinced the initially reluctant YG to sign on. “I want to congratulate the advisory committee and the really incredible work under way by the advisory committee and stakeholders, as they continue those very important discussions here,” said Taylor.

There is still concern in some quarters that World Heritage status would bring in all sorts of new rules and regulations regarding construction, mining, building, and land use. UNESCO has no such powers. Mining regulations already in place would not be altered, and the core area of Dawson is already a National Historic Site with municipal regulations that have been in place for over 30 years.

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