New gas, no plan

The North Yukon Land Use Plan is almost complete, but the public won’t see the million-dollar document until September.

The North Yukon Land Use Plan is almost complete, but the public won’t see the million-dollar document until September.

“It’s still in the hands of the Vuntut and Yukon government parties that are doing their initial review,” said John Ryder, acting director for the North Yukon Planning Commission.

“It won’t be going public until September,” he said.

The commission was to release the 230-page plan in early July, senior planner Shawn Francis said in a previous interview.

Francis is now on vacation.

The Yukon government has been criticized by environmental and conservation groups who argue that oil and gas development should not proceed in Eagle Plains or the Peel Plateau before the recommendations in the regional land use plans are made public.

In June, the Yukon government assigned $20 million worth of oil and gas rights to Northern Cross Yukon Limited in an area of Eagle Plains used by wintering caribou.

The Yukon government is currently in a second round of oil and gas rights bidding.

The information drafted for the North Yukon Land Use Plan allows for oil and gas extraction in Eagle Plains despite the potential impact on caribou, Francis said earlier.

Vuntut Gwitchin Liberal MLA Darius Elias is concerned the government will stall on adoption of the plan.

Either that, or reject it outright.

“I asked the minister during the spring sitting if he supported the planning concepts being brought forward under the plan,” said Elias.

“He refused to answer the question and the reason is now obvious. He doesn’t.”

Elias’ renewed concern stems from Yukon News articles published in June.

Early in the plan’s development, the Yukon Party government expressed its discomfort with management regions and assigned “thresholds” of disturbance within each region.

The North Yukon Land Use Plan places caps on activities within each management region, including Eagle Plains.

Following a 60-day public review beginning in September, the North Yukon Planning Commission will generate a final recommended plan.

Before it becomes official, it must be approved by the Yukon and Vuntut Gwitchin governments.

The North Yukon Land Use Plan has been in development since 2003 and, if adopted, will be the first in a series of territorial plans.

The next expected land-use plan covers the Peel River Watershed and the Peel Plateau.

“This is obviously a template for future plans,” said Elias.

“There is a lot riding on this plan because of the implications it will certainly have on the next ones to come forward.

“It is time to move forward.”