I wanted to express my disappointment with Yukon government’s land use plan for the Peel River watershed.
Despite seven years of research and consultation following a constitutionally mandated process under the Umbrella Final Agreement and Yukon land claims agreements, the Yukon government has made the choice to unilaterally ignore the proposed recommendations to protect as much as 80 per cent of the Peel River watershed from industrial development, road development and mineral staking.
The Yukon government plan to open up to 71 per cent of the region for mineral and oil and gas staking will require the building of roads, bridges and possibly railroads in this wilderness. The development of one deposit could open the region to many others, as transportation opportunities lower the cost of extracting lead-zinc, uranium, copper, nickel and coal believed to be buried in the region. Transportation routes will carve up the landscape, interfere with animal migration and irrevocably tame this great wilderness.
Having had the opportunity to paddle the Bonnet Plume River with a group of students from the National Outdoor Leadership School, I can share my firsthand experience of the value of wild places and rivers. The Peel’s mountain landscape encompasses 68,000 square kilometres (or 14 per cent of the Yukon Territory), and within its boundaries flow a constellation of big, wild rivers that is unmatched on the planet: Snake, Wind, Hart, Bonnet Plume and many more.
Through boreal forest that cloaks the shores wander four separate caribou herds (including the largest intact group of woodland caribou anywhere). Plenty of other superlatives can define the land – numbers of threatened species, size of nesting grounds, health of carnivore populations – but to trot out such statistics misses the point. The Peel is wild.
I ask you to reconsider the Yukon government’s blatant disregard for the value of First Nation land claim agreements, intact wilderness habitat, international tourism, wild rivers and the research and recommendations of a constitutionally mandated environmental protection process which protects and gives value to Canada’s wilderness heritage.