Commission consults on Dawson plan

The Dawson Regional Planning Commission is in Whitehorse today to get feedback on its proposed land use plans. It will also hold a consultation in Dawson City on Wednesday of next week.

The Dawson Regional Planning Commission is in Whitehorse today to get feedback on its proposed land use plans.

It will also hold a consultation in Dawson City on Wednesday of next week.

The public meetings come on the heels of two lawsuits filed against the Yukon government over its handling of the Peel regional land use plan.

The First Nation of Nacho Nyak Dun and Tr’ondek Hwech’in sued the Yukon government last month for its decision to open 71 per cent of the Peel watershed to staking, rather than the 20 per cent recommended by the planning commission.

Some have expressed concern that conflict over the Peel will put other land use plans in jeopardy.

“I’m very concerned for the Dawson regional land use plan,” said Sandy Silver, interim Liberal leader and MLA for the Klondike, in an interview last month. “Who is going to come forward with their best efforts without the opinion in the back of their mind: ‘What’s the Yukon Party going to do with this once we present it? If it’s not exactly what they want, what’s the likelihood that any of the fruits of our labour are actually going to be heeded?’”

Scott Casselman, who chairs the Dawson commission, said he hopes conflict over the Peel plan will not affect his group’s work.

“I hope it doesn’t spill over into our plan and our process, but naturally it probably will,” said Casselman.

“Of course, the issue of the Peel continues to come up. Our commission tries not to get too sidetracked with that. We’ve got enough work just dealing with what we need to do in the Dawson region.”

Tr’ondek Hwech’in, the Vuntut Gwitchin First Nation and the Yukon government are all parties to both the Dawson plan and the Peel plan.

But so far the governments have worked well together on the Dawson plan, said Casselman.

“I suspect that the territorial and First Nation governments have probably learned from the previous plans, as everybody has. We’ve had a very good working relationship with them all along.”

The Dawson region is different from the Peel because there is already significant mining activity in the area, said Casselman.

“It is very much a working landscape. There is a community, of course, in the heart of the region, Dawson, and there are a number of people in Dawson who work the land there.”

The commission formed in 2010. Since then it has worked to collect detailed information about the what exists in the region and how people would like to see it used.

“We were in a bit of a better position than the previous two land use plans in that, with each plan that goes on, lessons are learned,” said Casselman. “The government was more prepared to get that data to us in a quicker time frame. But it still took a couple years.”

Now the commission has developed five alternative proposals for what the plan might look like.

Some of the plans would do more to allow for mining and oil and gas development, while others do more to protect ecological and heritage resources.

The commission has released an 85-page document to help the public understand the plan alternatives and their relative merits.

Commission members will be available at the hearings to talk about the plans and answer questions.

The Whitehorse event takes place from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. today at the Old Fire Hall.

The Dawson event will take place from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. today at the YOOP Hall.

There will be presentations at noon, five and seven at both events.

The commission will collect feedback on the alternative plans through March 2. After that, the group will work to develop a draft land use plan for the region.

More information is available at dawson.planyukon.ca.

Contact Jacqueline Ronson at

jronson@yukon-news.com

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