No questions allowed at Peel pitch

Ministers Brad Cathers and Currie Dixon did not allow any questions during their presentation on the Peel watershed consultations at the Yukon Geoscience Forum this week.

Ministers Brad Cathers and Currie Dixon did not allow any questions during their presentation on the Peel watershed consultations at the Yukon Geoscience Forum this week.

That didn’t stop Charlie Snowshoe, an elder from Fort McPherson, from standing up and saying his piece.

He wanted to know why the government was telling him what the Peel land use plan should look like, instead of listening to the voices of the people who have been involved with the planning process over the past several years.

“I feel like a student here, telling me what you’re going to be doing,” said Showshoe.

He has worked on land use planning since 1988, and he received a lifetime achievement award for environmental impact assessment in 2007.

“These land use plans are made by the people that lived on it and remember what is there. On top of that they know what has happened in other areas, and they don’t want to see what’s happening in other areas happen in the Peel watershed.”

“Thank you, sir,” responded Cathers. “We’re not really taking questions here. We’re doing a presentation.”

The purpose of the presentation was to guide conference attendees through the government’s ideas to modify the plan recommended by the planning commission.

The commission’s final recommended plan called for protection from all new development in 80 per cent of the region. Existing claims could be developed by air access only.

The government has included the final recommended plan’s vision for the Peel on their consultation website, www.peelconsultation.ca, but has made it clear that they want to steer the conversation in another direction.

In fact, in the walkthrough of the website presented by Cathers and Dixon, they at no point clicked on the tab that shows the commission’s recommended plan.

While the government’s maps are bathed in green, the information on the website provides little detail on how strict protections will be across their proposed land use designations.

One obvious gap is the lack of clarity on where and under what conditions roads would be permitted.

The commission’s plan called for a total ban on roads in 80 per cent of the watershed, while the government doesn’t rule out road access anywhere.

Dixon mentioned twice that in the government’s new proposed restricted use wilderness areas, the level of surface disturbance would be limited to no more that 0.2 per cent of the total area.

“Even with the greatest amount of activity going on at any time, 99.8 per cent of that land management unit would be in its natural form, it’s natural state, pristine wilderness, whatever the term is.”

He failed to note, that is the same level of activity allowed in the Level 2 integrated management areas, which is one of the land use designations used outside of protected areas in both the commission’s and the government’s diagrams.

First Nation leaders were in attendance at the presentation.

Chief Eddie Taylor of the Tr’ondek Hwech’in told CBC News that he had requested to speak at the forum about the consultation process, but was denied.

In the legislature Thursday, Liberal Leader Sandy Silver called on the government to apologize for refusing Taylor the chance to speak.

Ed Champion, the newly elected chief of the Nacho Nyak Dun, was also in attendance. He plans to meet with other First Nation leaders about the government’s presentation, and would not comment on it until after he has done so, he said.

The government will hold an open house to receive comments on the Peel plan Monday through Friday next week from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. at the Gold Rush Inn in Whitehorse.

Contact Jacqueline Ronson at

jronson@yukon-news.com

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