I have not yet been to the Peel watershed but I learned that this area is one of a very few places in the world that offers large contiguous wilderness, a rarity that should not get split up.
To find out how to best deal with the various interests in this region, it was the Yukon Party government that set up the Peel planning commission to come up with a land-use plan.
After six years of hard work, involving all parties and looking at all aspects, the commission came up with a recommendation that asks for 55 per cent of the land to be permanently protected. A further 25 per cent would get interim protection for 10 years. After this period this area could be opened up for industrial development if the government and the people of the Yukon chose to do so. The remaining 20 per cent would stay available for industrial use.
Unfortunately, the same government that put the Peel commission to work is now ignoring its findings, instead presenting its own plan without any consultation with any stakeholders. This new plan is very one-sided towards industrial development and offers so little protection it is embarrassing.
With this proceeding the government not only disrespects the commission’s work, but also the opinion of 80 per cent of the Yukon population. This support in favour of the commission’s plan has been proven by Datapath, a reputable Yukon polling agency, a fact that the government tries to play down and discredit.
Time is running out. It is important that everybody speaks up now, no matter on which side one stands. But please don’t twist the facts.
A while back in a letter to the editor, one writer stated that “outfitters want one-third of the Yukon for their playground.” Fact is that the Peel planning area represents only 14 per cent of the Yukon. Of this, only 55 per cent is recommended for permanent protection.
Take this into account and we are down to about eight per cent of the Yukon. Now add all the already existing protected areas including Kluane National Park and we are at 15 per cent of the whole Yukon.
Is this really too much to ask for? Alaska already has 40 per cent of its land protected while N.W.T.‘s goal is 36 per cent, and they both don’t suffer from it.
The Yukon now has the chance to keep this icon as it is: unspoiled, untamed, pure. Resources Minister Brad Cathers, instead of becoming a short-sighted dictator, has the once-in-a-lifetime chance to be remembered as the brave minister that stepped up to protect a world-class gem.
Mr. Cathers: Please accept the commission’s recommended plan. For the sake of the Yukon, for the sake of Canada and – most importantly – for the sake of democracy.