I support the Peel Watershed Planning Commission’s final recommended plan. For me it represents a compromise. I would prefer to see regions No. 3 and No. 5, the two big yellow blocks (Integrated Management Areas) to the east and west of the Dempster Highway be part of the Wilderness Area that they lie between. These two areas contain the watersheds of the Ogilvie and the Blackstone Rivers, which join together in the northeast corner of region No. 5 to become the Peel River.
I have lived and worked in what I call Dempster Country since the mid-1970s. My job, mostly as a volunteer but sometimes as a paid field naturalist, has been to help people understand and develop an appreciation for the subarctic wilderness. It has been a wonderful life. Over the decades I have talked to thousands of highway travellers and I have seen the “magic and the mystery” of that landscape change them.
The Dempster Highway offers a unique opportunity – one not to be found anywhere else in North America. However, if we are not careful, diligent stewards, we will lose that. It will become like the haul road to Prudhoe Bay in Alaska – a development corridor, over-run with big rigs moving fast and carrying who knows what. No place for tourists. No magic, no mystery – just noise.
So I urge you to adopt the commission’s final recommended plan and along with it to develop strict regulations for the Integrated Management Areas No. 3 and No. 5 that “respect the ecological sensitivity and capacity of the land.” These regulations would allow thousands more highway travellers to see and get a sense of this great natural world we are a part of.