It is with great sadness that I read Judge Veale’s judgment on the Peel court case. I feel it is a sad day for the Yukon. By adopting the “parks” model as the only mechanism for protection of very large areas, we lose a lot.
We ignore the fact that all of the Peel which is not under mineral claims is therefore de facto “protected.”
We ignore the fact that strict and modern guidelines control any aspect of development on the land; we ignore decades of research, of development of legislations, regulations, guidelines, best practices.
We ignore the Yukon Water Board, YESAB, mining land use regulations, all democratically (if imperfect) established instruments that rely on consultation and knowledge to manage activities on the land.
We ignore that the government proposed plan would have made it extremely difficult for any mineral development to occur in the Peel watershed: any project would have needed to meet with land use planning goals (no project in Tombstone Park has ever met those criteria); only a tiny fraction of the land could ever be under disturbance at one time.
But I’m sure you know this already, since you’ve no doubt read the full government proposed plan and not just what the newspapers decided to report about it. I feel the conservation goals of the planning commission were mostly met by the government plan, but the legislative tools weren’t the ones proposed by the planning commission, since staking was still allowed.
But mainly I feel we lose as a community. The land claims-driven planning process was used as a mechanism for establishing an extremely large protected area, recommending the legislative tools (withdrawal of mineral rights) to reach the protection goals. In my view, this is clearly beyond the original “land use plan” mandate.
With a clear anti-mining agenda from the beginning, the proposals met with much resistance from those who were affected by the plan but had no voice at the planning table. Had the planning process been a true exercise in democracy, we would not have the divided and polarized situation that we have today. Who does this polarization serve?
That we would be willing to split our community on the altar of withdrawal of mineral rights, for what seems mainly high recreation values, is a very high price to pay, since the consequences on those of us needing an economy will be significant. There would have been more buy-in to the commission’s plan if it had really been a community-driven process. Since it wasn’t, shouldn’t we expect an elected government to review and modify any plan that is proposed by a non-elected advisory body with a stated clear one-sided agenda?
The conservation groups have been very successful in lobbying the First Nations and using land claims processes to further their goals. We can expect further such successes, as several other land use plans are on the table.
They have also been very successful in their emotional marketing campaigns that paint a black-and-white picture pitting conservation vs. development. Let’s be honest, we all need both.
So let’s hope these community-dividing exercises can turn around and become community-building ones. Now that would take real vision.