In the last couple weeks, the Peel River watershed has received a lot of publicity again.
The land use plan and its defendants have captured headlines. Many people want to see the watershed protected to preserve the untouched wilderness and the unique ecosystems. Are there any other reasons which have not been mentioned yet?
I can see two other important reasons for protection of the Peel River watershed.
The lack of scientific research in terms of collecting baseline data is one of them. The second one is our diminishing ability to enforce environmental regulations to allow sustainable development.
For any type of regulations, environmental or other, the government uses three instruments: legislation, regulations and enforcement. In order to create regulations we need legislation (e.g. statutes and acts).
But legislation and regulations are pointless if we can’t enforce them.
If I know that the law requires wearing seat belts, and I know that this law isn’t enforced on a regular basis, wearing a seat belt becomes a choice for me. If I am a responsible person and can see the self-preservation in wearing seat belts, I will do so.
But if it is an expensive, time-consuming procedure, I may have second thoughts about it. Similar concepts apply to mining regulations.
If there is not enough enforcement staff, chances to see the mining or water inspector at the mine site are pretty slim. Again, it becomes a choice to do the environmental assessment in-house diligently or in a quick, superficial manner.
Mining in the Yukon has seen a vast increase in the last 30 years. How about vast improvement of legislation, regulations and enforcement?
Do we believe that all mining companies are managed by responsible, environmentally concerned individuals, who have an unlimited budget for research and implementation of regulations?
Right now, we have no money for enforcement; we are dealing with elimination of enforcement officers because of budget cuts.
Then why don’t we change the ancient mining regulations and charge an appropriate amount of royalties from the gross profit of the mining companies?
With all the allowable deductions it is extremely easy to calculate a net profit of zero if companies aren’t prepared to pay royalties. But if we would be able to stand up to the mining companies and ask for our fair share in royalties, federal cutbacks would not cause as many job losses.
Are the politicians scared the companies may drift to Third World countries so we have to act like a Third World country?