Oil and gas land not just ‘parcels’

Since the meeting in Tagish on Feb.16, a growing heated debate is going on in regards to the planned oil and gas development/exploration in the Whitehorse Trough.

Since the meeting in Tagish on Feb.16, a growing heated debate is going on in regards to the planned oil and gas development/exploration in the Whitehorse Trough.

I assume that by now most of you know the government has offered 12 “parcels” of land between Carmacks and Carcross/Tagish for bidding by oil and gas companies, whose identities remain secret.

Quite a number of concerned Yukoners, coming from different backgrounds, have raised their voices so far. It seems like a true democratic people’s movement is on its way, signaling to the government: Listen to our concerns, do not go ahead with “development” plans without a broader public debate.

But back to those 12 “parcels” of land offered to oil and gas companies: What are we really talking about here?

We talk about vast areas of relatively unspoiled wilderness. We talk about areas with an especially high number of grizzly bears as government studies south of Tagish have shown. We talk about the area of the Carcross/Tagish caribou herd, which is slowly recovering from reduced numbers.

These “parcels” also include Little Fox Lake, Fox Lake and huge parts of Lake Laberge. They include also the Thirty Mile River of the Yukon, a Canadian heritage river since 1991 because of its “outstanding natural beauty” (Department of Environment for the Canadian Heritage Rivers Board).

One of those “parcels” is bordering the Lewes Marsh Habitat Protection Area north of Marsh Lake, an important resting area for trumpeter swans and other migratory birds.

So when we talk about those “parcels” of land offered to oil and gas companies, we are talking about a wilderness of boreal forest, wetlands, lakes, ridges, rocky outcrops – a world full of life and living beings like moose, caribou, bear, wolf, eagle, swan and many other animals.

We all know that many of these animals need large areas to roam – it wouldn’t be enough to give them only small protected “key areas.” We also know animals like bear, wolf, moose and caribou and the stretches of vast pristine wilderness are getting rare on this planet. The Yukon, so far, is one of those few places in the world where a human being has the chance to experience itself in a broader perspective, in a relationship with powerful animals.

Being in the wilderness with open senses, open mind and open heart can teach us respect towards every living being and can teach us loving awareness, can heal us from human hubris – teachings very important for the human psyche.

And it is with that respect that I want to ask the responsible politicians: Take the time, go out on the land, open your senses, your minds and your hearts and look around. And take all that what you can see in perspective to fast-earned money for a few people and corporate companies. Do you really want to risk all the beauty you see to potential spills and fracking?

Think of your children and their children. Do you want to give them the opportunity to experience this wilderness and its special beauty and do you want to give them the chance to learn and grow with it?

Take your time – listen and look around with open mind and open heart.

Elke Huber

Tagish