An open letter to Premier Darrell Pasloski:
After more than 40 meetings over five years, and many hundreds of thousands of dollars, the recommended Ddhaw Ghro Habitat Protection Area Plan was submitted to the Yukon government in June 2006 for final ratification. That was six years and nine months ago – and counting.
I was the independent chair of the planning team, and I was responsible to make sure the planning process followed the guidelines set out in the Selkirk First Nation Final Agreement. All the major and difficult hurdles to assign the area permanent protection were cleared including: closures to mining, outfitting, tourism, and forestry – a remarkable and rare result for Yukon conservation planning. Both Selkirk First Nation and First Nation of Nacho Nyak Dun agreed to the recommended plan years ago.
So, why is the plan not final? The Yukon government has stalled ratification for nearly seven years because Energy, Mines and Resources staff refuse to agree to a plan recommendation to protect the Ddhaw Ghro hot springs from wildfire.
The Northern Tutchone people believe their hot springs is a sacred healing place, and it was a primary reason the area was designated for protection in the first place. But because it has no permanent building and it is a long way from any community, wildfire managers said they would not agree to protection. For this reason, the recommended plan and the protection of the area has languished for nearly seven years.
Ddhaw Ghro is the jewel of the central Yukon and deserves to be fully and permanently protected. The hundreds of First Nations people in the area who attended the meetings and sat on the planning team deserve to be treated as if their voices meant something. Nearly seven years later, it abundantly clear their voices are not being heard – in fact, it seems their voices have been forgotten.
Many First Nation elders were involved in many community meetings. And like the protracted planning process for the Peel watershed, some of them have passed away without seeing their conservation efforts realized. Over the years, elders in Mayo, Pelly Crossing and Carmacks have asked me what has happened to the HPA plan. Is Ddhaw Ghro permanently protected? I am dismayed, embarrassed and disappointed to tell them – no it’s not. Now, I want the Yukon government to explain why.
Premier Pasloski, if you are serious about conservation planning, the first place you need to look is to your government’s legal commitments under the various land claim agreements for Habitat Protection Areas.
The solution here is simple. Tell your EMR staff to agree to the recommended plan. Work with the communities to develop a workable fire management plan. Give the Ddhaw Ghro Habitat Protection Area a final plan. Respect the wishes of Northern Tutchone elders and citizens of Selkirk First Nation, Little Salmon-Carmacks First Nation, and First Nation of Nacho Nyak Dun.
Former chair, Ddhaw Ghro Habitat Protection Area Planning Team