Yukon Lakes Monitoring Initiative

Yukon Lakes Monitoring Initiative
The overarching objective of the Yukon Lakes Monitoring Initiative is to understand the current and historic lake monitoring efforts and explore the possibility of a coordinated lake monitoring approach in the Yukon.

Yukon Lakes Monitoring Initiative

Key Takeaways:

  1. The Yukon Lake Monitoring Initiative seeks to understand current lake monitoring efforts and identify monitoring gaps across the territory.
  2. This project represents a collaborative effort with various partners and sponsors.
  3. As a facilitator and connector, Living Lakes Canada is leading a process to better understand lake monitoring priorities and concerns within Indigenous and non-Indigenous communities and governments, and interested stakeholders.


The Yukon is a vast territory with numerous creeks and rivers that are environmentally, socially, and culturally important to people and wildlife. Current surface water quality monitoring efforts by the Government of Yukon are centred around 15 stations across the whole of the Yukon that are monitoring stream and rivers. A recent evaluation of the network design highlighted lake monitoring as a significant knowledge gap for the territory and led to a collaboration with Living Lakes Canada.




PHASE 1: Yukon Lakes Overview Project (April-September 2023)
Commissioned by Government of Yukon

The overarching objective of the Yukon Lakes Monitoring Overview Project is to understand the current and historic lake monitoring efforts and explore the possibility of a coordinated lake monitoring approach in the Yukon. To meet this objective the following project tasks were completed in 2023:

  • Step 1) A desktop review was conducted to identify and compare governmental lake monitoring efforts across Canada.
  • Step 2) A desktop review was also conducted to develop an inventory of lake monitoring initiatives in the Yukon. Right holders and stakeholders potentially interested in lake monitoring in the Yukon were also identified (see Appendix B).
  • Step 3) Living Lakes Canada also collected information from individuals and organizations on lake monitoring interests through 19 interviews, nine survey responses, and one focus group. Participants included representatives from First Nations governments, municipal governments, territorial government branches, not-for-profit organizations, academia, and industry.
  • Step 4) Information sources from Steps 1-3 were analyzed to identify common themes as well as recommendations.

Listening to the participants and analysis of the findings gathered through this project led to an overarching vision to implement a coordinated territory-wide lake monitoring network where Indigenous perspectives and Western science are interwoven. This vision is supported by eight recommendations and further sub-recommendations that describe potential pathways to implement long-term lake monitoring that supports the protection of lakes for future generations.

PHASE 2: "Celebrating The Lakes" Gathering, Whitehorse (December 12-13, 2023)
Led by Living Lakes Canada with financial support from Government of Yukon and RBC Tech for Nature

This event will bring together staff from Indigenous, municipal, and territorial government along with environmental organizations and academia for 1.5 days of workshops, presentations, and meaningful dialogue about the health and importance of lakes in the Yukon. This celebration will continue conversations started in Spring 2023 around community-based lake stewardship.

This event is invite only. Please Claire.Armstrong@livinglakescanada.ca if you would like more information.


Nine main themes emerged throughout Phase 1 of the project.

  • Theme 1 - Changes in lake landscapes: Participants mentioned noticing changes around lakes over the past several years including changes to water levels (and more frequent/intense flooding), increased water temperatures, and changes in fish populations. 
  • Theme 2 - Relationships with people, land, and water: Building relationships with people and the land and water are key elements to successful environmental monitoring programs. This involves showing respect by spending time in the communities and on the lands that we are trying to protect.
  • Theme 3 - Transboundary collaboration: Due to the geography of colonial borders and First Nations traditional territories, the Yukon is a region that requires collaboration across many governments including Alaska, British Columbia, Northwest Territories, Yukon First Nations and transboundary Indigenous Nations and Inuvialuit.
  • Theme 4 - Proactive actions: Participants highlighted the importance of taking action and making decisions for land and water before negative environmental impacts appear. Waiting for detrimental impacts to occur before acting is inappropriate.
  • Theme 5 - Land Guardian programs: Indigenous-led Land Guardian programs were mentioned by participants as a possible opportunity to expand the capacity of lake monitoring because often, Land Guardians are already out on the land monitoring and visiting vast areas. The role of Land Guardian programs in a lake monitoring network across the Yukon can also support the more equal recognition of Indigenous ways of knowing in lake monitoring.
  • Theme 6 - Education: The need for more education and awareness of the impacts of climate change and human activities was raised by participants, with a focus on empowering youth and generating opportunities for intergenerational knowledge sharing.
  • Theme 7 - Communication: Effective communication was highlighted as the key to developing strong relationships between individuals, communities, and organizations, especially in the context of lake stewardship where there are shared interests but a diversity of worldviews and approaches. Effective communication facilitates transparency and accountability which in turn promotes trust and credibility in relationships.
  • Theme 8 - Jurisdictional overlaps: Overlapping jurisdictions between First Nations governments, municipal governments, and territorial governments brings confusion and barriers, but also opportunities in decision-making. Overcoming these barriers involves discovering what Indigenous self-determination means in the context of environmental decision-making and working collaboratively based on shared values of environmental stewardship.
  • Theme 9 - Indigenous Knowledge and Western science: Indigenous Knowledge and Western science can collaboratively inform the lake monitoring efforts. It was noticed that interweaving of knowledge systems is highly supported, yet it is not practiced widely around lake stewardship in the Yukon at this time.


The Yukon Lakes Monitoring Initiative is building on innovative practices developed by Living Lakes Canada over the years, such as the Columbia Basin Water Monitoring Frameworkas well as theLocal Indigenous Knowledge and Values Framework, which was co-developed with Upper Nicola Band for theForeshore Integrated Management Planningproject on Nicola Lake.

Program activities are guided by our Yukon First Nation Advisor and by various Yukon First Nations communities participating in the program. The First Nations Principles of Ownership, Control, Access and Possession (OCAP®), as well as community-specific knowledge protocols, will be upheld in all activities related to gathering and sharing knowledge.


If you have any questions regarding this program, live in the Yukon and have concerns about your local lakes, or are interested in participating in the protection of lakes in the Yukon, please contact Sally Turnbull, Lakes Program Assistant at Living Lakes Canada: sally.turnbull@livinglakescanada.ca.

See Sally's profile.

Yukon Lakes Monitoring Initiative

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Funders & Contributors

Government of Yukon RBC Tech for Nature
Air North Eclipse Nordic Hot Springs