Wetlands can be essential for maintaining water flows, flood protection, purifying water, recharging/discharging groundwater, and providing habitat for fish and wildlife. Some wetlands support traditional subsistence and cultural activities and provide for recreation. Wetlands also provide a number of additional valuable functions including:

  • slowing the flow of water, thereby reducing erosion;
  • providing habitat for plants that help stabilize stream banks and shorelines;
  • creating and fertilizing floodplains;
  • supporting the food chain;
  • enhancing aesthetics; and
  • serving as a rich arena for education.

The Government of Yukon uses the Canadian Wetlands Classification System (1997) that includes five classes of wetlands: bogs, fens, swamps, marshes and shallow open water. These classes are determined by soil, vegetation, water and other ecological characteristics. The classification system provides a practical and consistent framework for the characterization and description of wetlands throughout Yukon and Canada that can be used by specialists and non-specialists alike. Wetland classification can be used by proponents to communicate with assessors and by land managers to identify habitat that may warrant special consideration in planning).


The Canadian Wetland Classification System is a scientific classification and does not address environmental, social or economic importance of a wetland. It is used for naming and describing various kinds of wetlands for use during environmental assessments, regulatory applications, conservation area planning and planning of infrastructure projects.

For more information on the classes of wetland, refer to these factsheets produced by Ducks Unlimited Canada.

The largest concentrations of wetlands in Yukon are located in areas underlain by continuous permafrost from central to northern Yukon. Smaller wetlands and wetland complexes are scattered throughout the territory. Wetland mapping has not been carried out in Yukon and the full extent of wetlands is not known, in particular the extent of peatlands. Wetlands are important for a disproportionally high number of species compared to many other habitats (Environment and Climate Change Canada, n.d.) which is reflected in the number of protected areas in Yukon that include wetlands.


Ice wedge polygons caused by freezing and thawing, Yukon North Slope.



What is happening?


  • As needed, wetland inventory is conducted to support various governments and non-government projects and planning processes.
  • There are a number of important wetlands identified as “significant” in the Government of Yukon’s key wildlife area database held within the on-line Lands Viewer map tool.
  • Many of our existing protected areas include important wetland habitat.
  • There are bird monitoring programs in place in a number of wetland complexes recognised for their value to migratory birds which can provide an indication of wetland ecological health (i.e., waterfowl monitoring.)





Taking action


The Government of Yukon's Wetland Policy

One of the recommendations in the Yukon Water Strategy and Action Plan (2014) is to develop a wetland policy for Yukon. A number of wetland initiatives carried out by the Government of Yukon over the last 15 years include: wetland classification, best practices, environmental assessment, inventory, management planning for specific wetlands, and monitoring of environmental change.

The Government of Yukon, led by the Department of Environment and an interdepartmental working group, is in the initial stages of developing a wetland policy. A consistent approach to, and understanding of, wetlands will enable governments to better manage wetlands and consider their functions and values in planning and decision-making.

Wetland Reclamation Guide

The Government of Yukon, led by the Department of Energy, Mines and Resources, is developing a guide for wetland reclamation for the placer mining industry.

The wetland reclamation guidance document is intended to provide assistance to placer miners who are required to develop a wetland reclamation plan in accordance with an approval and/or licence. However, this guidance document may also provide useful information to all placer miners working in wetland areas who are undertaking progressive wetland reclamation activities.

This guidance is also intended to assist assessors and regulators to provide consistent advice and direction during the assessment and licensing of placer mining operations in wetland areas.

The Government of Yukon has partnered with Ducks Unlimited Canada and the Klondike Placer Miners’ Association to develop best management practices for wetland reclamation of open water ponds to increase the value of settling ponds for waterfowl.


Aishihik Lake wetland complex.






Ducks Unlimited Canada. n.d. Yukon Wetlands. Ducks Unlimited Canada, Stonewall, Manitoba, Canada. Available from: http://www.env.gov.yk.ca/animals-habitat/documents/ducks_unlimited_wetland_factsheet.pdf

Environment and Climate Change Canada. n.d. Extent of Canada’s Wetlands [modified 2016 Feb 17; cited 2016 Mar 3]. Available from: https://www.ec.gc.ca/indicateurs-indicators/default.asp?lang=en&n=69E2D25B-1


National Wetlands Working Group. 1997. The Canadian Wetland Classification System, Second Edition. University of Waterloo, Waterloo, Ontario. Available from: http://www.env.gov.yk.ca/animals-habitat/documents/canadian_wetland_classification_system.pdf