I am writing with disappointment that the Yukon government has decided to approve a Peel River Watershed Land Use Plan that is substantially different from the plan recommended by the Peel Watershed Planning Commission’s plan.
I feel the Yukon government has overstepped its obligation to present a plan that represents the wishes of the affected First Nations and Yukon people. More than anything I am disturbed by the overriding of the land planning process by the Yukon government’s substantial alteration of the commission’s plan.
I strongly believe that it is important to maintain large intact ecosystems when agricultural, urban and industrial development is transforming the landscape worldwide.
In Yukon, many areas are currently open to development and we have several operating mines and several more proposed to be developed.
I understand that society requires and uses non-renewable resources (although often in an unsustainable and wasteful manner) and that extraction projects require a significant timeframe to go from exploration to development.
Nevertheless, keeping the minerals and resources in the ground preserves their potential availability to future generations. Rushing to extract as much as possible for short term political and/or economic gain is not morally right and makes no sense from a planning perspective for long term sustainability.
As a society we need to think beyond the corporate mentality that seeks to increase shareholder monetary wealth in the present (and often in excess of needs) and consider the well-being of society in general over a longer period of time.
I have reviewed the government’s plan and compared it as much as practically possible to the commission’s plan and noted that the major differences are in the types of land use classifications and the quantity of land reserved as truly protected areas.
The new Restricted Use Wilderness Area classification introduces the potential for industrial activity principally into the Snake, Bonnet Plume, Wind, and Hart River watersheds where it would be prohibited under the commission’s plan.
Cumulative Effects Management is intended to mitigate negative surface impacts at a regional scale but there will be impacts nonetheless. Connectivity between these watersheds for wildlife movement (i.e. caribou) could be significantly impacted, for example.
I prefer the full protection for these watersheds that the commission’s plan provides for in the Special Management Area classification and the contiguous inclusion of the watersheds under this classification.
Less substantial changes to the commission’s plan could have satisfied the needs of the Yukon government for development and been met with less resistance and outrage from First Nations and Yukon citizens.
Unfortunately, the planning process will be stalled further while the issue is settled in the courts at the expense of taxpayers and First Nations and Yukon citizens. I ask that the Yukon government listen to First Nations and Yukon citizens and approve the recommended commission plan in its entirety or with minimal amendments.
Please honour the First Nation Final Agreements and respect democracy; protect the Peel.