I have lived a trapping lifestyle for most of the 30 years that I have lived in the Yukon.
With my husband I have raised and home-schooled our two children at various remote locations while trapping for a marginal living; one of these locations was along the Wind River in the Peel River Watershed.
Our residence for the trapping year was near natural hot springs close to the Wind River and we marvelled at the unique water systems in the area. Hot water bubbled out of rocks at many locations. It also emanated from springs high on hillsides that created mini-ecosystems contingent upon heated water. We had to build bridges at several locations along our trapping trails because the creeks simply would not freeze, no matter how cold it got.
We have watched migrating moose packs (up to six in a group) travel past our home and linger at the hot springs for a day or two. Leaving the high snow pack around Hart Lake they moved to the Wind River, presumably for better forage and easier movement. Winds blow continually along the Wind River so much of the terrain is blown free of snow. Towards spring we watched groups of moose returning from the Wind River heading west.
Caribou visited us in the early morning on many occasions, much to the consternation of our sled dogs. They disappeared almost as quickly as they appeared once they smelled our wood smoke or heard our domestic noises. Our children marvelled at the sight of such natural wonders on our doorstep. So did we.
When a planning commission was created for the Peel River Watershed, I was glad to know that the welfare of this beautiful place was being discussed by a group independent of government. Land-use planning before any form of development appeared to be the motto at the time, and it seemed to be an appropriate motto.
How can there be any certainty for any interest groups if land-use planning is not complete? Mining interests do not want to invest in an area if they know that there are other interest groups trying to protect various parcels of land. Before they invest thousands or millions of dollars they want to know that they have certainty to develop in that area.
Similarly, tourist companies do not want to advertise travel to an intact ecosystem if there is a chance that that area might be dissected by roads, airstrips, mining and/or exploration activities. People who pay to travel to the Peel River Watershed are expecting to experience one of the last great wilderness areas on the planet – a place apart from industrialized, urbanized areas of the world.
After YESAB asked for input from Yukoners on the future of the Peel River Watershed it became quickly apparent that there was a great desire from people of all walks of life to protect and preserve this wondrous area. To this day, there continue to be letters to the editor of both local newspapers in support of protection of this watershed; some want total protection, others want at least 50 per cent protection and others seem to want both industry and tourism interests to work together.
I was therefore greatly disturbed to learn that Premier Dennis Fentie had interfered with this process by influencing the report from his own Environment Department with regard to the Peel River Watershed. I understand that he does have his own agenda with regard to moving the territory forward but his actions appear to be one of a dictator rather than that of a democratic leader. If there is overwhelming input from his constituents to preserve and protect the land and waters of the Peel River Watershed then that is what Premier Fentie should be aspiring to do. Why is his agenda the only one that matters?
I am in favour of total protection and preservation of the Peel River Watershed, knowing that only by asking for the world are we afforded a small piece of it. As many others have said, we will not have a second chance to protect this intact piece of Yukon wilderness.
Thousands of people are coming to Yukon annually to experience such an anomaly, so we must collectively acknowledge its great value and demand protection of the Peel River Watershed.
I humbly ask that my words be considered when the final decisions are made. I have been blessed to live here in the Yukon and to make a marginal living from the healthy ecosystems that exist here. Akin to farmers, fishermen, First Nations and any other folks who earn a living from the natural resources of the land, I believe that our voices must be considered when the final decisions are made with regard to the Peel River Watershed.