open houses and free snacks

On Monday afternoon and early evening the Peel Watershed Land Use Planning Commission is holding an open house to discuss its draft land use plan.

On Monday afternoon and early evening the Peel Watershed Land Use Planning Commission is holding an open house to discuss its draft land use plan.

While only highlights of the draft Peel Watershed Land Use Plan have been released it is already contentious.

Various media reports are already quoting pro-development groups saying there is too much protection,

Those on the side of the environmental spectrum, and this includes this particular writer and one or two of the groups he is affiliated with, have been allegedly saying they are not happy with the potential resource access routes.

It must be noted that the actual draft written report is not yet available.

It would be most responsible for all concerned to publicly comment only after reading the draft report in its entirety.

An alternative would be to attend Monday’s open house.

While only highlights of the draft plan have yet been released the open house will be a chance for Whitehorse residents to review and discuss these highlights with those that created the plan.

Now the reader can bet his or her bottom dollar that various special interest groups and organizations are mobilizing their supporters to get them out to attend this event.

This will range from the pro-development types worried about future land use to the environmentalists concerned about protecting fauna and flora.

There is nothing wrong with this, as long as everyone in attendance understands what is going on.

An open house is not a democratic process.

Just because 100 miners show up at a meeting does not mean everyone is in favour of strip-mining the Peel River basin.

The same goes if 100 environmentalists attend.

Odds are that not all Yukoners favour turning the entire Peel Watershed into a national park.

What is known about open houses is that only those concerned about the issue enough to give up their afternoon or evening will attend.

Whether they have been encouraged by a group to which they belong, or they have come on their own initiative, their views are equally important.

They are also equally unimportant.

An open house is not an election, nor is it a reflection of public sentiment.

It is just a chance to gather the views of those present, and to present information to them.

It must also be noted that this particular open house is being held in Whitehorse.

Some Whitehorse residents do occasionally visit the Peel Plateau to enjoy the land but they are definitely not regular users of it.

That privilege belongs to some residents of Mayo, Fort McPherson, Dawson City and Old Crow.

To their credit, the Peel Planning Commission has been holding open houses there.

An open house is also a chance for those hosting the event to present information.

Not everyone is prepared to read the entire draft Peel Watershed Land Use Planning Commission report.

Reviewing the highlights that have already been released can be a bit confusing.

By talking to either members of the Peel Planning Commission or some of their staff a lot of information can be verbally obtained in a personable manner.

There is also another aspect.

These open houses usually have great snacks.

Those who wish to stretch their grocery budgets would do well to attend.

Do not be so shocked that some of those in attendance at public open houses are there partly for the free food.

Even certain political figures have been rumoured to do this, as the Yukon’s member of Parliament will no doubt deny.

Of course, merely being there helps politicians, in fact anyone, learn about the issues.

And it is purely a perk that the snacks are free.

But getting back to the open house, it does represent a chance for concerned individuals to express their viewpoints on the draft Peel Watershed Land Use Plan.

It is also a great chance to obtain detailed information from members of the commission about aspects of the land use planning process.

The Whitehorse open house will be held at the Westmark Whitehorse on Monday, April 27th, from one to eight p.m.

There will be a public presentation from five to six p.m.

No word yet on what snacks will be available.

Lewis Rifkind is a Whitehorse based part-time environmentalist.