A closer look at Peel principle #6

I would like to thank all members of the Peel Watershed Planning Commission for their years of hard work in creating a plan representative of Yukoners and their perspectives.

I would like to thank all members of the Peel Watershed Planning Commission for their years of hard work in creating a plan representative of Yukoners and their perspectives.

Unfortunately, it seems the Yukon government has decided that its own opinions and agenda are more important. It shouldn’t be surprising that compromise is not a core principle of the new Yukon Party planning regime.

Of the eight new principles presented by the Yukon government, I find principle #6 particularly frightening. What is “active” management? The Energy, Mines and Resources website does not define it, yet states it is key to protecting the Peel region.

The word “active” is a part of two vastly different approaches to management – proactive and reactive. History has proven over and over again that when it comes to environmental management, being proactive is infinitely more cost-effective on a long-term basis. Even if a cleanup is initiated after a major disturbance, there is no guarantee the damage can be completely reversed. Is principle #6 referring to proactive or reactive management?

I would also be interested to know what the goal of this “active” management is? Is the government aiming to keep the watershed’s wilderness integrity at the same standard it exists at today? If not, will the “active” management be aimed at enhancing ecosystems or will the landscape be allowed to degrade to an undefined level?

It should also be noted that the goals of any environmental management regime are set by politicians and policy-makers, not scientists. Hunting quotas, fishing regulations and other similar policies may be recommended by biologists, but ultimately it is not their decision – it is a political one.

I am concerned that the Yukon Party’s goal for “active” management is not to maintain the current state of environmental integrity, but to let it degrade significantly.

Ecosystems are more complex than we can possibly understand. When the need for industrial development outweighs the environmental costs, mitigation and restoration are used to lessen the disturbance. These strategies require considerable knowledge about how the surrounding ecosystems function. Our best results at ecological restoration have been achieved through mimicking nature, not manipulating it.

There is a distinct lack of data regarding ecosystems in northern regions and research is very expensive in these remote areas. I would assume “active” management includes the mitigation and restoration of disturbed areas.

Will the government be committed to establishing baseline ecosystem data at a high cost before allowing industrial development? Alternatively, will the next generation inherit bills similar to the cost of the Faro mine cleanup? I sometimes wonder if the Yukon Party MLAs would be as keen on resource development if any leftover cleanup costs came out of their pensions.

If honesty and transparency were part of the Yukon Party’s platform, it would have been reasonable to assume that their objectives regarding the Peel would have been presented before the last election. Was there significant concern that their principles might change between then and now?

The newly presented principle #6 of “active management” is an undefined term, designed to inspire confidence where none is deserved.

It appears that the Yukon Party’s intentions for the Peel Watershed Regional Land Use Plan are misleading and ambiguous, which isn’t, in fact, very principled at all.

Krystal Reaume

Haines Junction