Having noted the rather one-sided correspondence concerning the Peel land use plan in your paper, I am writing to offer a different opinion. Fair disclosure here: I hold mining claims in the Peel watershed and have worked in the area since the early 1990s.
Mineral exploration in the Peel area dates from the Klondike Gold Rush. There has been virtually continuous exploration in the Peel watershed since the 1960s, leading to the discovery of significant iron, coal and base metal deposits. Future generations of Yukoners stand to benefit when these resources are eventually developed.
Outfitting and wilderness tourism operations moved into the Peel area on the heels of the exploration companies and currently make good use of the infrastructure developed by the miners, including airstrips, winter roads and camps. Elements within both groups, however, have long sought to kick the mining industry out of the area, leaving it for their own sole commercial use.
During the early 1990s, preservationist groups led by CPAWS, joined the battle, launching a court case to block an exploration program near Slab Mountain. They lost.
Following ratification of the Umbrella Final Agreement, however, it saw another opportunity to achieve its ends by subverting the land use planning process in the UFA. The Peel land use plan is the culmination of this effort and it is no surprise to see those involved fighting tooth and nail to get it through.
The Peel land use plan was developed by an unelected and unaccountable commission and staff. The processes and outcomes were clearly slanted to exclude mineral exploration. The majority of written submissions to the commission advocated continued mineral exploration in the area.
Despite this, the commission proposed a plan, which would have barred mineral exploration from most of the area and effectively expropriated the remaining properties by cutting off all potential access. If this commission intended to develop a land use plan that would ensure best use of the land for the benefit of Yukoners both present and future, a fair-minded observer can only conclude it has failed.
Fortunately, the commission’s plan is a recommendation and the ultimate responsibility for deciding on a final land use plan lies with our elected government officials. The last election was turned into a referendum on mining and the Peel plan by the opposition parties. The NDP and Liberals both endorsed banning mining in the Peel watershed. The Yukon Party committed to implementing a fair plan which would balance all existing stakeholder interests.
The electorate spoke clearly and those seeking to ban mining in the Peel lost. No amount of polling, ads or letters can change that outcome.
It is my sincere hope that the current government will stick to its guns and implement a land use plan which respects the rights of all stakeholders in the area and which uses the land to the maximum benefit of all Yukoners.