I was saddened and angered by Karen Simon’s letter published on Friday, Nov. 30, titled “Leave the Peel for Real Yukoners.” I’d like to address the inaccurate assertions and suppositions Ms. Simon has made about the Peel watershed.
Over the past two summers, I had the pleasure of paddling and exploring the Snake, Wind, and Peel rivers. Ms. Simon has inaccurately illustrated the Peel region as a bustling tourism hub littered with the waste of inept vacationers who sound like they lack both ethics and common sense.
This is simply not true. We spent just under three weeks on the Wind and Peel rivers last summer. Our experience was highlighted by several wildlife sightings. We ran into other paddlers occasionally and also spent many days without seeing another soul. Nor did we see any human feces or toilet paper.
One of the amazing things about the Peel watershed is the mutual respect all visitors have for the region, regardless of ethnicity or the purpose of their time spent there. This includes Yukoners, tourists, First Nations, outfitters and stakers. We all share a common respect for the animals, the water and the land.
On this point I really need to be clear: the area is pristine. Ms. Simon’s presumption that the tourists are “ruining the wilderness” is ridiculous.
I would also like to point out that many people choose and plan to take their holidays in the Peel watershed, similar to the many people who choose and plan to take their holidays to Mexico, Hawaii, Las Vegas or Disneyland. While Ms. Simon indicated she would never waste money and fossil fuel to go the Peel watershed, I would be curious if she takes holidays and if so does she walk to her destination? Many of my fellow Yukoners who do holiday in the Peel often engage in other environmentally mindful practices throughout the year to offset the carbon that is used during their drive to Mayo and their flights into the area.
I am proud that the Peel watershed attracts many visitors from different regions of the world. Ms. Simon provided a lambasting opinion that Peel watershed tourists come to the Yukon with a suitcase full of food bought elsewhere and leave without spending any money. These visitors do bring tourism dollars to the Yukon, whether through independent travel or through a wilderness tourism company.
I do agree with one thing Ms. Simon stated – leave the Peel for Yukoners – which is something that will not be done if the region is opened up to development. If the Peel is opened to mining and development we will see a host of workers from Alberta, British Columbia and elsewhere in Canada, flying in and out to capitalize on our land, while the money goes to big corporate metropolitan offices.
I would like to clarify that I am not against development. I am against development in the Peel. I support Yukon stakers and their families. However, once the staking is done in an area, so is their employment.
Fortunately for stakers, the Yukon is a vast region rich with resources. Jobs for stakers will continue to be plentiful, especially as the Yukon’s land use planning is developed and implemented in other regions.