More time for Peel ban

The Yukon government bought itself three more weeks to finish its Peel watershed plan.

The Yukon government bought itself three more weeks to finish its Peel watershed plan.

A ban on staking in the Peel watershed was put in place almost four years ago when the territory began the land-use planning process for the area. The staking ban was set to expire on Dec. 31, but the government still hasn’t finished its final stage of consultation with affected First Nations, a process that should have been finished last March.

Just before Christmas, the government announced it was extending the staking ban until Jan. 21.

“We’re very close now. The finish line is in sight. We just need a few more weeks to ensure that the consultation process is completed in an adequate way,” said Yukon Environment Minister Currie Dixon.

None of the chiefs from the affected First Nations could be reached for comment by press time.

Dixon wouldn’t give specifics about what stumbling blocks are holding up the process.

“There’s nothing that anybody would be unfamiliar with. We’ve suggested that there should be modifications to the final recommended plan and we are consulting the First Nations on those, as well as the final recommended plan itself,” he said.

The government has faced heavy criticism over its plan for the Peel watershed. After four years of community and public consultations, as required by the Umbrella Final Agreement with Yukon First Nations, the Peel Planning Commission released its final recommended plan, which advocated protecting 80 per cent of the land.

But in October, the Yukon government released its own plan with four options that weren’t discussed at any of the public input sessions done by the planning commission. Now the four affected First Nations are at loggerheads with the government and threatening a lawsuit unless it approves the final recommended plan as originally released by the commission.

But despite the discord, Dixon said three more weeks will be enough to finish the work.

“As required by the Umbrella Final Agreement, we have been consulting on a government-to-government basis with the four affected First Nations. We’ve had face-to-face meetings with the affected chiefs. Things have been going positively but we feel that we need this additional time to conclude the process,” Dixon said.

Contact Jesse Winter at

jessew@yukon-news.com

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