This letter is in response to some recent comments in the Yukon legislature about the Yellowstone to Yukon Conservation Initiative (Y2Y), of which I am the president. It included the statement “Y2Y’s demands for new protected areas will not stop at the Peel watershed region.”
It is important to recognize that the Peel Planning Commission’s Final Recommended Plan is a ‘made in the Yukon’ process and Y2Y had nothing to do with its establishment.
It was created under the requirements of the Yukon Umbrella Final Agreement. It was produced by a commission that was chosen by Yukon government and the four affected First Nations governments, and did not include environmental non-governmental organizations, including Y2Y.
Now the commission’s recommendation does line up with the Y2Y vision to connect and protect habitat so people and nature can thrive. This is not threatening. This is listening to the advice of scientists and elders and keeping abreast of issues like water quality, climate change, and the long-term health of wildlife and human communities. It is a convergence of good ideas from many sources.
Having walked many thousands of miles in the Yukon, I can appreciate how vast and wild the territory feels to those who live there. My current work, however, is an education in how quickly wildness can be lost. Much of my time as Y2Y’s new president is spent co-ordinating efforts to build wildlife crossing structures across busy highways in southern parts of the region, and securing bits of private land where too much development is cutting key wildlife movements off.
The beauty of the Peel commission’s plan is that it is a Yukon-made solution that gets ahead of the curve. Having had virtually almost nothing to do with it, all I can do is publicly thank all Yukoners who contributed and worked so hard to produce the Peel Planning Commission’s Final Recommended Plan. It is a document of vision and beauty, and, as an outsider, I wish all Yukoners well in implementing it.