Haggling continues over Peel plan

The Peel Watershed Regional Land Use Plan could be signed-off by November, if an ambitious timeline announced on Friday proves true. But, for this to happen, First Nations and the Yukon government must compromise.

The Peel Watershed Regional Land Use Plan could be signed-off by November, if an ambitious timeline announced on Friday proves true.

But, for this to happen, First Nations and the Yukon government must compromise. They have to decide how much of the vast, 77,000-square-kilometre, Scotland-sized swath of land in northeast Yukon to protect.

So far, neither party has budged from their position: First Nations want it all protected, while the territory wants a plan that’s more friendly to mining than the current draft, which would ban development in 80 per cent of the region.

More modest compromises have been made. They’re laid out in a joint letter by all parties to the planning commission, written last month and released on Friday.

The territory has agreed to a tighter timetable. It initially wanted an additional year to reach a joint position on the Peel plan.

First Nations, meanwhile, have joined the territory’s call for a simpler plan than the commission’s. They note the draft plan divides the region into a patchwork of 24 distinct units and would require up to 19 subsequent plans. They see this as unwieldy.

The parties also make it clear to the commission who they believe ought to have ultimate say over how to interpret the land-use plan: them. The Yukon Land Use Planning Council “may provide assistance” in a land-use ruling, but governments expect to have final say, and they’d like these powers enshrined in the final plan.

This would put the planning council on par with the Yukon Environmental and Socio-economic Assessment Board, which makes recommendations that the territory overrules as it sees fit.

Under the new timeline, the commission would prepare a revised plan by early July. Community meetings would be held from then until October. A final plan would be released by November.

That’s presuming that all parties agree to a final plan. To get there, a yawning gap must be bridged.

“In our view, none of the land within the watershed should be open to potential industrial development,” states a joint letter by the First Nations, released yesterday. The sole exception to this rule would be the land that borders the Dempster Highway.

The Yukon government never spells out how much of the Peel it wants to see protected in its letters to the commission. But it’s calling for “a more balanced plan,” that would put less emphasis on conservation, and offer greater tolerance towards mining.

Uranium deposits have been discovered along the Wind River, which also happens to be a favourite destination for backcountry paddlers.

There’s oil and gas in the Peel plateau. And Chevron owns the massive Crest iron deposit along the Snake River.

The government questions the amount of land to be made off-limits to development. “More work” needs to be done to “develop a rationale” to protect these areas, according to the territory.

Nonsense, reply conservationists in a release issued today.

“How much more rationale do you need?” asked Karen Baltgailis, executive director of the Yukon Conservation Society. The planning commission spent several years studying the Peel, she noted.

And three-quarters of Yukoners who attended Peel consultations or wrote submissions supported protecting the entire watershed, noted the Tr’ondek Hwech’in in their letter to the commission.

Another 10-15 per cent supported a compromise, and three to five per cent supported no protection

A recent Datapath poll, meanwhile, showed that Yukoners are 75 per cent in favour of a large area in the Peel Watershed that is free from industrial activity.

The government’s apparent dismissal of these results prompted Gill Cracknell of the Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society to wonder: “could it be that the government spent all that money and then didn’t listen to what people said?”

Another contentious matter is road access. The draft plan bans roads in the Peel. First Nations agree: they oppose the use of any vehicle larger than a snowmobile in the region.

But the territory says a ban on surface access is “not a workable scenario.” Managing road access through pristine wilderness is “challenging, but not impossible.”

This is “the same lack of vision which has degraded wilderness and cultural values everywhere it has been tried,” said Mike Dehn, executive director of the Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society’s Yukon chapter.

To appease miners with claims in the Peel, the First Nations recommend the territory consider several “creative solutions.”

One is to waive the requirement that miners periodically work their claims in the Peel, as the territory has already twice done.

Another is to allow miners to swap Peel claims for claims outside the region. A third option is to offer work credits to those who give up their Peel claims.

The First Nations support mining, they say – just not in the Peel.

“This area is sacred to our peoples. It should not be subject to hasty exploitation without thinking of the legacy we leave for future generations or how we respect the value of our lands beyond resource extraction.”

In response to warnings by mining boosters that banning industry from the Peel may scare off investment across the territory, the First Nations note today’s mining boom seems to be doing fine, despite the current staking ban in place in the region.

Contact John Thompson at


Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

City of Whitehorse’s Selkirk pump house on Selkirk Road in Riverdale on Jan. 26. Whitehorse city council decided Jan. 25 that there will be no advantage for local firms planning to submit proposals for the final report and design of a second barrier water treatment project for the Selkirk pump house. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News)
No local content weighting on pump house contract

Work will see design for water treatment system

The Yukon Workers’ Compensation Health and Safety Board is issuing $10 million in rebates to employers this month. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News)
Yukon employers to receive $10-million in rebates from Workers’ Compensation Board

Eligible employers will receive cheques based on total premiums paid in 2020

Connie Peggy Thorn, 52, pleaded guilty Jan. 27 to manslaughter in the 2017 death of Greg Dawson. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Whitehorse woman pleads guilty to manslaughter in death of Greg Dawson

Connie Thorn, 52, was arrested in October 2019 and pleaded guilty in Supreme Court on Jan. 27.

Abigail Jirousek, left, is tailed by Brian Horton while climbing a hill during the Cross Country Yukon January Classic in Whitehorse on Jan. 23. Jirousek finished second in the U16 girls category. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News)
Cross Country Yukon hosts classic race

Cross Country Yukon hosted a classic technique cross-country ski race on Jan.… Continue reading

Yukon Premier Sandy Silver talks to media on March 5, 2020. The Yukon government said Jan. 25 that it is disappointed in a decision by the federal government to send the Kudz Ze Kayah mining project back to the drawing board. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Territorial and federal governments at odds over Kudz Ze Kayah mine project

The federal government, backed by Liard First Nation, sent the proposal back to the screening stage

Yukon RCMP’s Historial Case Unit are seeking the public’s help locating Bradley MacDonald, a 42-year-old man who has been missing since Aug. 5, 2019. (RCMP handout)
Historical Case Unit seeks man missing since 2019

Yukon RCMP’s Historial Case Unit are seeking the public’s help locating a… Continue reading

Yukon RCMP said in a press release that they are seeing an increase in tinted front passenger windows and are reminding people that it is illegal and potentially dangerous. (RCMP handout)
RCMP warn against upward trend of tinted windows

Yukon RCMP are seeing more vehicles with tinted front passenger windows, prompting… Continue reading

An arrest warrant has been issued for a 22-year-old man facing two tickets violating the <em>Civil Emergency Measures Act</em>. (Joel Krahn/Yukon News file)
Arrest warrant issued for CEMA violation

An arrest warrant has been issued for Ansh Dhawan over two tickets for violating CEMA

The office space at 151 Industrial Road in Marwell. At Whitehorse city council’s Jan. 25 meeting, members voted to sign off on the conditional use approval so Unit 6 at 151 Industrial Rd. can be used for office space. (John Hopkins-Hill/Yukon News file)
Marwell move set for land and building services staff

Conditional use, lease approved for office space

The bus stop at the corner of Industrial and Jasper Road in Whitehorse on Jan. 25. The stop will be moved approximately 80 metres closer to Quartz Road. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News)
UPDATED: Industrial Road bus stop to be relocated

The city has postponed the move indefinitely

The Royal Canadian Mounted Police detachment in Faro photgraphed in 2016. Faro will receive a new RCMP detachment in 2022, replacing the decades-old building currently accommodating officers. (Joel Krahn/Yukon News file)
Faro RCMP tagged for new detachment

Faro will receive a new RCMP detachment in 2022, replacing the decades-old… Continue reading

In a Jan. 18 announcement, the Yukon government said the shingles vaccine is now being publicly funded for Yukoners between age 65 and 70, while the HPV vaccine program has been expanded to all Yukoners up to and including age 26. (1213rf.com)
Changes made to shingles, HPV vaccine programs

Pharmacists in the Yukon can now provide the shingles vaccine and the… Continue reading

Parking attendant Const. Ouellet puts a parking ticket on the windshield of a vehicle in downtown Whitehorse on Dec. 6, 2018. The City of Whitehorse is hoping to write of nearly $300,000 in outstanding fees, bylaw fines and court fees, $20,225 of which is attributed to parking fines issued to non-Yukon license plates. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
City of Whitehorse could write off nearly $300,000

The City of Whitehorse could write off $294,345 in outstanding fees, bylaw… Continue reading

Most Read