I strongly support the final recommended plan as presented by the Peel Watershed Planning Commission in July 2011. I’m well aware of the 6.5 years of planning and consultation that were involved in the planning process, as I attended several public meetings and kept up to date with the various scenarios presented.
First Nation stakeholders as well as a significant number of Yukoners were lobbying for 100 per cent protection from industrial development, while the Yukon Chamber of Mines was lobbying for open access for development. The final recommended plan is already a major compromise, protecting only 55 per cent of the planning area for long term.
As the second land-planning unit in the Yukon to undergo the planning process, the science-based and stakeholder-based approach resulted in a reasoned and reasonable plan. If the current government, and perhaps successive governments, can easily ignore the recommendations of a multi-stakeholder commission, then what does that say about the future of land planning in the Yukon?
I think that the current Yukon government is worried that if they accept the planning commission’s final recommended plan then they may be locked into similar agreements in the future. This is not really a valid concern. The Peel region is an atypical planning unit within the Yukon. I believe it contains much more roadless wilderness than any other planning area, other than the North Yukon, which has already had its land-use planning process finalized. This is why the Yukon government’s four current proposals are unacceptable. None of the proposals from A through D give any degree of protection to even river corridors within the region.
In the territory’s four proposals, there appears to be the intention to allow road access throughout “protected areas” and “restricted use wilderness areas” as well as “restricted use wilderness corridors.” This aspect alone means that there is no real protection prescribed for any part of the watershed! Incredible!
One could say much more about each proposal in detail but the bottom line is that this is a philosophical and ideological situation in which the current government has an opportunity to do something brave that has not often been done … set into protection a piece of wilderness that is not only quintessentially Yukon, but also a piece of the Canadian psyche (the Bonnet Plume is designated as a Canadian Heritage River!).
Forget the backroom deals that may have been discussed by Energy, Mines and Resources behind closed doors; any deals discussed this way, including the territory’s four proposed concepts – created outside the land-use planning process, have no merit anyway.
The Peel watershed is a unique land area. It is one of the last areas on Earth that is untracked by roads. Here’s what people read on Wikipedia: “Yukon’s tourism motto is ‘Larger than life.’ The Yukon’s major appeal is its nearly pristine nature.”
We have an opportunity in the Yukon that will likely never come again – to protect an area of wilderness to pass on to future generations. It is, indeed, a watershed moment that the Government of Yukon should recognize.