The Peel out of balance

The Peel out of balance Before the election last October, it was almost funny to hear Yukon Premier Darrell Pasloski say things like, "I don't have any opinion on the Peel," along with several other lines dodging the issue of the Peel watershed's future.

Before the election last October, it was almost funny to hear Yukon Premier Darrell Pasloski say things like, “I don’t have any opinion on the Peel,” along with several other lines dodging the issue of the Peel watershed’s future.

However, thousands of Yukoners had expressed a clear and honest opinion and, following seven years of costly work by the Peel planning commission, the final recommended plan emerged in July 2011. Not perfect, but it has a lot of integrity. In the intervening years Ð when questioned Ð the Yukon Party government often “hid behind the process” and didn’t participate with integrity when it was timely.

Finally, last week, the government blatantly sabotaged the process. In a contemptuous swipe, the government threw caution to the wind and rammed a stake through the final recommended plan, releasing eight nonnegotiable principles intended to guide its own radically different land use plan for the area. So much for democracy in the Yukon, 2012. With this betrayal of the public, the new Pasloski government has revealed that it is as hideous as the Dennis Fentie government was.

In large newspaper ads the government is now trying to appease the public with carefully doctored spin to make its intentions more palatable. Who is it trying to fool? Anybody who takes enough of an interest to read the ad can see that it is a recipe for disaster!

Under the heading “Finding a balance” the government writes: “The debate has shifted from whether to protect the Peel, to how to protect the Peel.” Sounds good, and how? Well, this much is certain from the principles: the Peel region will be opened up to potential widespread industrial development and stakeholders will be allowed road access to their claims (more than 8,000 today Ð temporary staking ban will be lifted in September).

The government is prescribing multiple use of the landscape (which usually leads to multiple abuse). The habitat degradation which may come to pass in the intensely staked sections of the landscape and the repercussions it can have for the wildlife, and ultimately ourselves, is mind boggling. The government recognizes that there are some specific areas, which deserve the highest level of protection, as yet not made public. I wonder about the government’s criteria for protection. Time will show. Obviously all areas where claim posts have been dropped do not fit in!

What the Yukon government obviously does not understand or care about, is that you cannot mix true wilderness with industrial development. The one excludes the other. The Stewart River watershed to the immediate south is staked solid along the border with the Peel drainage Ð the extractive industries are already closing in.

Look what’s happened in Alberta Ð gridded, dissected Ð nobody in their right mind wants that here and we don’t need it either. Exploration and mining are already rampant in the Yukon despite the temporary staking ban in the Peel.

The only way we can achieve a balance and move forward is by giving the Peel River watershed full protection and prioritizing other areas higher for nonrenewable industries. I don’t like to see this display of heavy-handed governmental power-play. We need visionary leadership, which realizes that the Peel River watershed, like a family heirloom, is best passed intact to future generations.

Democracy Ð rule by the people Ð sounds like a fine thing. We should try it sometime in the Yukon.

With apologies to Edward Abbey.

Jannik Schou

Whitehorse