Leave the Peel for real Yukoners

As I was rolling up a newspaper to light the woodstove, I came across an article about David Suzuki from when he and his family came up to canoe the Peel River in 20.11 As I stopped to read it, I felt compelled to respond.


As I was rolling up a newspaper to light the woodstove, I came across an article about David Suzuki from when he and his family came up to canoe the Peel River in 2011. As I stopped to read it, I felt compelled to respond.

Suzuki said in the article that “as an outsider … it’s priceless to see the watershed like this.” Well, I wouldn’t know. I don’t get sent on trips to the Peel by CPAWS and certainly cannot afford to do a trip like this that costs thousands of dollars.

I don’t know that I would if I got the chance. Why? Well, first of all, I can’t help but notice the irony of driving eight hours to Mayo and back in a car and then flying into the headwaters of one of those Peel rivers in a plane to help “protect the Peel.”

I live in rural Yukon and can paddle into the wilderness from my back door – why would I waste all that money and all that fossil fuel to go to the Peel?

Secondly, it’s a destination sold as a wilderness experience by tourism operators from all over the world. Who wants to spend a holiday running into tourists who don’t even know how to crap in the woods? I spoke to an acquaintance recently who had friends come up this summer to canoe the Wind River and they told her that not a day went by without running into other groups of canoeists … and not a day went by when they did not see the impact of tourism on the river in the form of human feces, toilet paper, fire rings, garbage, broken off branches from trees and the scrape marks of plastic boats on the rocks.

They also told her about the many fossils they took home with them, after showing her the photos of their close encounters with wildlife. After his 2011 trip, Suzuki said “he was a bit disappointed with the number of animals they saw.” Perhaps the wildlife was sick and tired of being harassed by tourists. He did allow, though, that his family fed themselves on grayling almost every day (I hope they bought their Yukon fishing licences before they went).

Suzuki then said that “people who stake claims should not determine the future of the territory” and “people who have stakes, what the hell have they put out, just to put a stake in the ground? Have they invested money? Most of the people who are staking have nothing to do with the Yukon itself.”

I say, David Suzuki, you haven’t a clue what you are talking about. Where in the world did that drivel come from? It sure as hell should not be the likes of you, CPAWS and other eco-action do-gooders that should determine the future of the territory. Stakers are not only Yukoners, but they are also kids and grandkids and great-grandkids of Yukoners. How many of the tourists paddling down the Peel River can say that?

A staking crew stays in the community, buys supplies in the community, buys groceries in the community and spends their hard-earned wages in the community. Tourists arrive with food they bought in Vancouver. I imagine they may buy a beer at the end of their trip to celebrate their wilderness experience (hopefully a Yukon beer) and perhaps a bumper sticker that reads “Protect the Peel,” but that’s about it.

Suzuki says it’s the job of Yukoners to put pressure on the government. “The problem is we’re not getting enough democracy. People aren’t getting out and being actively involved in the process.” Well, I agree with him. It’s time for Yukoners to speak out about this hijacking of our public interest by organizations like CPAWS who hide behind foreign corporate funding and don’t contribute a thing to the health and well-being of the Yukon.

Let’s call a spade a spade. It’s the wilderness tourism industry vs. the mining industry. Don’t be fooled into thinking it’s all about the wilderness, it’s about someone’s bottom line.

Yes, let’s put a price on wilderness. Let’s charge those wilderness tourism companies for selling a public resource to tourists and a reclamation fee for letting those tourists ruin the wilderness. Let’s make sure that the wilderness tourism companies have to pay to use those rivers and that there is value given back to the Yukon – after all, that’s what we ask of the mining industry.

If one industry is banned from the Peel, so should the rest. Why should wilderness guides be allowed to make a profit off the Peel and not the mining companies? No more tourism in the Peel – protect the Peel. Leave it to real Yukoners.

Karen Simon is a Whitehorse resident.