Widen the Peel moratorium

Widen the Peel moratorium The coming election is about just a handful of issues (according to pundits, lobbyists and, of course, the local media, which doesn't want to make it too complicated for those confused souls who will cast their ballots next Tues

The coming election is about just a handful of issues (according to pundits, lobbyists and, of course, the local media, which doesn’t want to make it too complicated for those confused souls who will cast their ballots next Tuesday.): Housing, sobering facility, transparency in government, and the Peel River.

This last issue seems to have grown to disproportionate size and appears to be the one you must have a position on.

Well, thanks to the media - this paper in particular – the Peel has taken on this watershed quality. Everyone has an opinion, and those who don’t will be judged at the polling station.

Come on, Darrell Pasloski, tell us already where you stand.

If you cannot make up your mind (or have your mind made up), I can help.

Just bear with me, and you will see.

There is, in my mind, at least, a faint connection between the Peel and housing in the Yukon, and you could be the first one to exploit it.

Here goes:

Scarcity, in a market economy, drives up the prices. In the case of housing in the Yukon, many would like to have the government alleviate this situation (even though many are gleefully looking at the price of their one-time $80,000 trailer going to $200,000; but that is not important) by making more land available and building more rental units. Good plan, and, probably, the right one.

Government interferes in the market and people can afford housing.

With the Peel it is the opposite.

Reduce the region to the playground of a few, and those who have a commercial interest in that part of our wilderness will make tons of money.

Not buying my take on the situation? Let me go back in history.

Some time ago, a mine was supposed to open in the Alsek/Tatshenshini region.

Some wildwater enthusiasts with a view to economic potential raised the awareness of the world (yes, the world) to the plight of that river system.

And, pointing to future generations, the survival of the grizzly bears, the uniqueness of the bits of glaciers falling into the river, managed to have the river system declared a World Heritage Site (Yeah, the world responded; very reminiscent of Trevor the dog’s story; seems there are a lot of suckers out there).

Now, over the years I have not seen much of the world visiting the Alsek/Tat, but I have talked to one or two individuals who have since taken the trip - commercially organized, of course (I have, additionally, Googled for trips on the Alsek/Tat, prices, number of permits, and a sundry of other queries).

So, depending on the choice of breakfast – granola bars with percolated coffee or eggs Benedict with a cappuccino on the last day – you pay between $4,500 and $6,000. The average party is made up of one guide and six clients (sorry, “friends of the environment”). Most of the permits are, and have been, in the hands of a few commercial enterprises; you can calculate the profits.

The reason why the price is so steep - prohibiting even most Yukoners to ever “do the Alsek”- is the market situation: According to the BC Ministry of the Interior numbers there are about 13,000 “person nights” on the Alsek/Tat. Given that most trips have a duration of 10 or 11 days, it is easy to calculate only about 1,200 visitors will have this rare privilege.

The number was higher in the first few years, until the operators got together in Juneau one year in the spring (or winter, I forget), and decided there were still too many on the river, scarin=g all the grizzly bears away and cheating the paying customers out of that experience, hence the present number of permits.

I should mention that the Windy Craggy mine had to be compensated with taxpayers’ money, of course, ergo buying the rich people their wilderness experience.

The companies that operate (sorry, “offer a unique wilderness experience”) naturally make a very good return on the investment, and I would guess that their stocks are not too shabby either.

In a similar way, another batch of outdoor entrepreneurs want the monopoly on the Peel.

I have flown over, and, on occasion, landed on, the Peel, the Bonnet Plume, the Snake, the Wind, the West Hart and the Hart, the Blackstone, the Whitestone, the Miner, and most of the rivers on either side of the Dempster.

They are, admittedly, nice to look at, in spots probably spectacular, depending on the perspective; but they are not different from the Yukon, the Teslin, the Pelly or the White, the MacMillan or the McQuesten. What makes them unique is their inaccessibility to the common tourist. The other rivers that I mentioned have been “polluted” by too many travellers; there are no big bucks to be made offering paddle tours any longer. What is needed is government intervention to create scarcity, to the benefit of a few.

I do not buy the “for the kids” baloney for one second.

None of my kids has the money to do the Peel. And I cannot name too many of my acquaintances who would consider the trip, either. But creating scarcity is good business policy, “uniqueness” is a great seller these days. (I can even foresee a drive by the operators to have access limited, or even prohibited even to Yukoners. Farfetched, you say? The big-game outfitters and other site-specific outdoor entrepreneurs have floated this idea for years.)

Regarding the environmental damage, I do agree that, in the past, too much of the natural environment has been affected by reckless attacks.

However, there is growing awareness of that issue, methods of exploration and extraction are improving.

So, Pasloski, rather than coming to a quick decision, which is solely based on the ramped-up hysteria about the issue, why not take a step back.

Put a moratorium on all commercial activity in the region for, let’s say, 10 years, and revisit the issue after some sobering thoughts about the details of any arrangement.

Maybe we can extract minerals in a better, less-damaging way. Maybe we don’t need to mine at all. Maybe the world needs some of the stuff that is in there. Who knows?

Halt everything until we have explored all the aspects; that is the human way.

A moratorium on all commercial activity will prevent anyone from “investing” money, and then having to be “grandfathered” into any new arrangement.

A conclusive decision on the Peel at this time does not serve the interests of the Yukon people, or the global community. This is an issue driven by very few beneficiaries who see a good opportunity to use this election and the lack of

engaging issues as a great opportunity to create a fait accompli.

For the rest of us, and the world, the Peel is as exotic as the Amazon. I do not, by any means, propose unencumbered development or resource extraction.

I am, however, suggesting a cooling-off period.

The Peel River issue has no place on the ballot.

Pasloski, there really is not any pressing need to make a definite decision. Acting under stress, especially the artificially manufactured kind, creates knee-jerk responses and bad policies.

Postscript: Richard Mostyn, I am a little disappointed to see you marching at the head of the Peel mob.

Bernd Schmidt

Whitehorse

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