The Peel is a haven for wildlife

Open letter to Resources Minister Brad Cathers: I urge you to consider that the majority of Yukoners want the majority of the Peel protected. This was made clear in the DataPath poll of 2009, in the Yukon election in 201

Open letter to Resources Minister Brad Cathers:

I urge you to consider that the majority of Yukoners want the majority of the Peel protected. This was made clear in the DataPath poll of 2009, in the Yukon election in 2011 that saw 60 per cent of votes cast for parties which openly promised to protect the Peel, and in the responses to the Peel planning commission’s public meetings.

Do you wish the Yukon to be a democratic place, and if so, how do you see that relating to the Peel decision? Do you wish to be a democratic government?

The Peel planning commission’s final recommended plan, made after over six years of consultation with all parties including your government, protects much of the Peel, is fair, balanced, and in keeping with the Umbrella Final Agreement, which is the law of the Yukon.

We do need resource extraction. I work to reduce my ecological footprint, but I use a bike, drive a car at my job, live and work in heated spaces. But there is plenty of the Yukon left for resource extraction without destroying the wilderness value of the Peel. And if we did come to needing the resources in the Peel later, they would still be there.

Yes, there is other boreal forest, but this piece is truly unique in North America, and to quite an extent in the world, for its size, beauty, clean free-running rivers, and biological diversity.

The Peel was part of Beringia, and still supports that ancient life; it wasn’t scraped down like much of the rest of Canada during glaciation. Three different types of boreal and sub-Arctic habitats come together in the mountainous Peel. The Peel is large enough (68,000 square kilometres in the Yukon, 77,000 if the N.W.T. part is included) that it can protect species at risk from climate change.

Animals which are threatened elsewhere live here in strength, as they have for thousands of years. The Peel is an essential part of the winter habitat for the Porcupine caribou herd. It is an important place for birds; some stop over on their way north or south, and many nest in the Peel.

Introducing your four “concepts” at this time violates the process set out in the UFA. Your “concepts” allow roads in nearly all the Peel, even if you did colour the maps green.

But roads and wilderness are incompatible. Where resource extraction proceeds unimpeded, as in much of southern Canada, wilderness is gone, we cannot see what the land was; we cannot see its original character. It is the difference between experiencing an eagle in a cage, compared to seeing an eagle flying freely through the mountains. Humans are hardwired to need that!

Do you think it is ethical, for the short-term gain of a few, to destroy for future generations, this splendid place? There is such a thing as the common good, the common interest. Please consider it.

Thank you for reading my letter, Mr. Cathers. I wish you and the Yukon government well in making this momentous decision.

Mary Amerongen

Whitehorse