New players enter battle for the Peel

The battle for control of the Peel Watershed is heating up after planners opened the process to the public last month.

The battle for control of the Peel Watershed is heating up after planners opened the process to the public last month.

Public input on the Peel River Planning Committee’s three proposals was solicited through open houses in Yukon communities. It was later extended to include letters received after the February 28 deadline.

The general public and stakeholders were asked to evaluate the plans, which ranged from the most protected (scenario one) to the least protected (scenario three).

That democratic process hasn’t been easy on the independent committee. Many written responses posted on its website have been sharply critical.

If anything, the letters demonstrate who’s really got their sights set on the Peel.

The Yukon government’s Energy, Mines and Resources Department took 11 pages to note factual errors in the committee’s current plan. And it defended mineral claimants, who might be affected by efforts to protect the region.

The committee failed to deal with access issues, leaving them to future subregional zoning plans, said the department.

“Deferring access questions to subregional or district level planning is ‘passing the buck,’” wrote the department.

“There has to be all-season access identified in the plan to enable certainty for exploration and development in the future,” it says.

None of the existing scenarios suggest reasonable access options, said the department.

Energy, Mines and Resources also defended quartz claims and coal leases in the Peel, most of which would be withdrawn or put under special management areas.

“This poses problems for these claims to be accessed for future exploration and development.”

The proposals gloss over the Peel’s high mineral potential, said department officials.

The committee’s failure to pencil in access roads also nettled the Yukon’s Environment Department.

Managing wildlife around access roads is a complex challenge for the government, and roads will compromise the ecological integrity of the Peel, wrote the department.

All three plans are faulty, wrote Darrell Pasloski, the Yukon’s Conservative candidate in the last federal election.

The plans commend a considerable portion of the Peel to protection even though more than $100 million has been invested in mining claims in the region, said Pasloski, writing as president of the Conservative Association of Yukon.

The committee must draft its next plan with more focus on economic values, he added.

The planners never sought industry input before drafting its plans, wrote Vancouver-based Tarsis Capital Corp., a mining investment firm with a stake on the Bonnet Plume River. It said it has invested $1 million in the region.

The committee’s maps aren’t detailed enough for Tarsis to figure out whether its claims have fallen under protected land, said the company.

Also, road access to the sites appears to be limited.

The third scenario is, so far, the best plan, wrote Chevron Canada Ltd., which has an interest in the Crest iron-ore deposit in the Peel watershed.

However, though that plan offers the most freedom for resource developers, it is still flawed, Chevron noted.

The Crest is located in the southeast corner of the watershed, one of its most remote and inaccessible regions.

Rail access through the region towards the southwest would be essential to exploit the iron ore deposit, said Chevron.

A pipeline corridor from the Mackenzie Gas Project in the Northwest Territories to the Peel Plateau and the Eagle Plains Basin should also be included in the plan, it said.

The committee went too far in assuming that mining development and other interests can’t co-exist, said Stephen Quin, president of Capstone Mining Corp., which owns the Minto Mine near Pelly Crossing.

The committee took little or no account of the implications for mine-claim holders in the Peel, “which could result in massive compensation to those with economic interests in the Peel,” wrote Quin.

The pro-conservation lobby also recruited some heavy-hitters to voice support for environmental protection.

The Yukon to Yellowstone Conservation Initiative, which aims to create a 3,200-kilometer-long park corridor from the Peel to the Rocky Mountains of Wyoming, support scenario two.

The Peel is the “northern anchor” of the Yukon to Yellowstone plan, said director of conservation Wendy Francis.

The initiative lobbies for the creation of a conservation region running along the northern length of the Rocky Mountains that will serve to protect the migratory patterns of large mammals such as grizzly bears.

Contact James Munson at

jamesm@yukon-news.com.

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

Just Posted

In a Feb. 17 statement, the City of Whitehorse announced it had adopted the what3words location technology used for emergency response. (Haley Ritchie/Yukon News)
Three words could make all the difference in an emergency

City of Whitehorse announced it had adopted the what3words location technology

Jesse Whelen, Blood Ties Four Directions harm reduction councillor, demonstrates how the organization tests for fentanyl in drugs in Whitehorse on May 12, 2020. The Yukon Coroner’s Service has confirmed three drug overdose deaths and one probable overdose death since mid-January. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Three overdose deaths caused by “varying levels of cocaine and fentanyl,” coroner says

Heather Jones says overdoses continue to take lives at an “alarming rate”

Wyatt's World for Feb. 24, 2021.
WYATT’S WORLD

Wyatt’s World for Feb. 24, 2021.

Approximately 30 Yukoners protest for justice outside the Whitehorse courthouse on Feb. 22, while a preliminary assault hearing takes place inside. The Whitehorse rally took place after the Liard Aboriginal Women’s Society, based in Watson Lake, put out a call to action over the weekend. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News)
Courthouse rally denounces violence against Indigenous women

The Whitehorse rally took place after the Liard Aboriginal Women’s Society put out a call to action

Susie Rogan is a veteran musher with 14 years of racing experience and Yukon Journey organizer. (Yukon Journey Facebook)
Yukon Journey mushers begin 255-mile race

Eleven mushers are participating in the race from Pelly Crossing to Whitehorse

Legislative assembly on the last day of the fall sitting in Whitehorse on Nov. 22, 2018. As the legislature prepares to return on March 4, the three parties are continuing to finalize candidates in the territory’s 19 ridings. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Nine new candidates confirmed in Yukon ridings

It has been a busy two weeks as the parties try to firm up candidates

David Malcolm, 40, has been charged with assaulting and attempting to disarm a police officer after an incident in Whitehorse on Feb. 18. (Phil McLachlan/Capital News)
Man resists arrest, assaults officer

A Whitehorse man has been charged with assaulting and attempting to disarm… Continue reading

Yukon Energy in Whitehorse on Aug. 4, 2020. A site on Robert Service Way near the Alaska Highway has been selected as the future home of Yukon Energy’s energy storage project. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Site selected for Yukon Energy battery project

Planned to be in service by the end of 2022

The Yukon government and the Yukon First Nations Chamber of Commerce have signed a letter of understanding under the territory’s new procurement policy. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
First Nation business registry planned under new procurement system

Letter of understanding signals plans to develop registry, boost procurement opportunities

US Consul General Brent Hardt during a wreath-laying ceremony at Peace Arch State Park in September 2020. Hardt said the two federal governments have been working closely on the issue of appropriate border measures during the pandemic. (John Kageorge photo)
New U.S. consul general says countries working closely on COVID-19 border

“I mean, the goal, obviously, is for both countries to get ahead of this pandemic.”

Legislative assembly on the last day of the fall sitting in Whitehorse on Nov. 22, 2018. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Start of spring sitting announced

The Yukon legislature is set to resume for the spring sitting on… Continue reading

Whitehorse City Hall. (Joel Krahn/Yukon News file)
City hall, briefly

A look at decisions made by Whitehorse City Council this week

Most Read