A self-proclaimed hillbilly guru has agreed to dismantle the remote — and unauthorized — off-grid Yukon log cabin he built, lived in, and boasted about on his YouTube channel.
Matthew (Matty) Clarke has also agreed to post a new video online in which he explains that other would-be pioneers must have permission from the Yukon government before occupying public lands.
Clarke is one of three people who caught the attention of government officials when they were building cabins in a remote area near Ensley Creek, about 15 miles up the Yukon River from Dawson City, Yukon. According to the government, these huts were all built without permission or permits on public land and within the traditional territory of the Tr’ondëk Hwëch’in.
The government asked Clarke, Simon Tourigny and Chloe Sergerie to vacate and remove their cabins, and at first all three resisted or ignored the calls. Earlier this year, the government petitioned the Yukon Supreme Court to evict them.
The court case against Sergerie has now been dropped. A spokeswoman for Yukon’s environmental department said her cabin has been removed and the site has been restored to a natural state.
Tourigny, meanwhile, has not responded to a court subpoena and a hearing is scheduled for later this month in the Yukon Supreme Court.
Clarke has agreed to dismantle his cabin by January 1st, removing all of his belongings from the site and restoring it to its natural state. If he doesn’t, the territorial government does it for him and he has to pay for it.
“A keeper or steward of the land”
Clarke’s adventures in the Yukon bush and legal system began two years ago when he seemingly arrived in the area to find solitude and his own slice of paradise.
A series of YouTube videos Clarke posted last year under the Skote Outdoors name appear to tell the story of his arrival in Dawson City in 2020 to make a mining claim, and then his journey upriver to find the claim and choose a place to build his home.
The videos are a mix of step-by-step DIY cabin building instructions, travelogues from the north and inspirational reflections from Clarke.
“Dreams come true, man. Dreams come true every day guys – you just have to make them come true,” he says in a video.
Clarke has posted a series of six videos titled “Alone in the Yukon” that show him single-handedly chopping down trees and building his log cabin in the Yukon. However, according to the Yukon government, he was never as alone as his videos suggest — Sergerie’s and Tourigny’s cabins were nearby, though they are never shown or mentioned in the videos.
The Yukon government eventually found Clarke’s cabin and his YouTube channel, which has 5,200 followers. And while officials last summer tried to force the YouTuber to vacate the premises and demolish his shack by threatening a lawsuit, Clarke initially tried to make excuses, claiming an honest mistake and even offering to buy the land and a Tourism set up business.
In a letter to a local government land manager, Clarke argued that the cottage was now his home and that he did not see himself as an “intruder but as a custodian or steward of the land”.
Meanwhile, he kept posting new videos online until last summer without mentioning his legal situation.
Now, the government says, Clarke’s “dream come true” is boarded up and abandoned. He has a few months to dismantle it and remove all his belongings from the site.
He has also agreed to create and publish a new video on his Skote Outdoors channel by March 31st.
“While the creative content will be its own, the video will include a statement that everyone must seek and obtain permission from the Yukon government before occupying territorial lands,” read the agreement filed with the Yukon Supreme Court.
Clarke, who was emailed this week, told CBC News that he is currently out of the country and “is about to disappear for 5 weeks”.
In the meantime, he has been posting a new weekly series of videos to Skote Outdoors, apparently filmed last winter, showing him building an off-grid log cabin in Labrador.
“Is life in the forest a crime?”
While Clarke is clearly focused on his new adventure in Labrador, last fall and winter, Sergerie and Tourigny each reached out to local Yukon media to try and argue for their right to remain in their cabins in the Yukon.
In a written statement to the media earlier this year, Sergerie complained about how she and Tourigny were harassed by government officials simply for pursuing an alternative lifestyle.
“Is life in the forest a crime?” Sergerie wrote. “We are not asking anyone to change their life, we are simply asking that our minority be socially accepted and left alone.”
Tourigny wrote a similar manifesto that was published in local newspapers last year.
Speaking to CBC News in April, he admitted his Ensley Creek booth was unauthorized, but still seemed puzzled by his legal woes. He said he felt “persecuted” by overzealous government officials.
“They tell me my cabin is unauthorized. That’s a fact, I can’t deny it,” he said.
“My question is why? What’s up with my hut? And when is it no longer acceptable?
Tourigny said he was willing to make his dressing room legal somehow, but nobody seemed willing to help him with that.
“I really want to live in the bush and I think I should have the right to have a cabin in the bush. If you want me to do it legally then let me do it legally,” he said.
“The only reason I didn’t follow the rules is because I want to live in the bush so bad I did it anyway… No one can tell me I’m wrong because I know in my heart that I am.” there’s nothing wrong.”
A government spokesman said Tourigny did not respond to a court summons issued in the spring. A hearing on the Yukon government’s request to have his cabin removed is scheduled for August 22 in the Yukon Supreme Court.
In the meantime, his cabin has also been abandoned and boarded up, the government said.