Peel plan has rocky road ahead

The Peel watershed land-use plan is about to enter its toughest phase yet. The final recommended plan, tabled to Yukon and First Nation governments by the Peel Watershed Planning Commission two weeks ago...

The Peel watershed land-use plan is about to enter its toughest phase yet.

The final recommended plan, tabled to Yukon and First Nation governments by the Peel Watershed Planning Commission two weeks ago, hardened differences between First Nations, miners and environmentalists, the commissioners warned at a news conference on Friday.

Now it’s up to the Yukon, Na-Cho Nyak Dun, Tr’ondek Hwech’in and Vuntut Gwitchin governments to accept, amend or reject the plan over the next few months.

And they will likely have to contend with some disparate interests, said commissioners.

“Our experience was there was not a lot of negotiating to be done,” said Dave Loeks, one of the commissioners who attended a news conference Friday.

“I’d be very surprised if the logic of the situation is any different for them from what it was for us.”

“Somebody is going to have to make some tough calls.”

The plan suggests protecting 80 per cent of the 68,000 square-kilometer region from industrial development.

It was a major change from the most recent draft, released in the spring, which tentatively recommended 60 per cent protection.

“There’s substantial difference between the two,” said Loeks.

The debate over the Peel split into two clusters, he said. Heritage, culture and environment boosters fell in one camp, while industrial development in the other.

The first draft was meant as a compromise between the two camps.

“We tried to come up the middle,” said Loeks. “The response to that plan, from almost all sectors, was that they hated it.”

At an open house meeting in Whitehorse last spring, miners, environmentalists and First Nations all blamed the commission for not listening to them.

“When you got really deep into those responses, it was clear that nobody wanted to compromise,” said Loeks. “And that might have been because nobody really could compromise and still preserve their interests.”

Roads were the most divisive consideration in the plan. First Nations felt road building would bring more human impact in its wake. Mining interests argued roads were integral to any exploration company’s economic value.

“As a commission, we felt we were at a fork in the road,” said Loeks. “Or a fork in the trail, if you want to put that way.”

Rather than pick sides, the commission decided to write a plan that preserved options for the future.

“Going the way we did, with the high degree of protection, in our view, is a conservative approach because those options still remain for society to choose if we want to,” said Loeks.

While the Yukon never made any public disclosure over what they wanted in the plan, the First Nations put forward a united front demanding strong protection in their homeland.

“Since planning is a creature of the UFA, it really requires us to pay special attention to the stated interests of the First Nations,” he said. “So nothing swayed us, it was really the logic of the situation.”

Those clashes will likely continue between the governments, said Loeks.

The governments will now negotiate any changes to the final recommended plan. All four governments have to agree to a finalized plan for it to be accepted.

Partial acceptance is possible, but it will likely damage relations between the Yukon and First Nation government.

If the Yukon government rejects the plan, but the First Nations accept it, the recommended plan could be applied to the three per cent of land owned by the First Nation governments.

On the other hand, should the First Nations reject it, the Yukon government could apply the plan to the 97 per cent of the Peel watershed that it owns.

“That could have unknown repercussions around the relations between these various governments,” said Loeks.

It could undermine the progress of modern land claims, rendering them little more than political window dressing.

If the governments reject the plan outright, the Yukon wilderness will slowly lose its worth, said Loeks.

“If they shelved it and we proceeded with basically the status quo, with the land managed as it is, then, over a period of time, the values, the wildlife values, the cultural values, the heritage values, those things called landscape values would degrade,” he said.

“The status quo means long-range degradation.”

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

Team Yukon skip Laura Eby, left, directs her team as Team Northern Ontario skip Krysta Burns looks on at the Scotties Tournament of Hearts in Calgary on Feb. 22. (Jeff McIntosh/CP)
Team Yukon reports positive experience at Scotties

Team Yukon played their final game at the national championship in Calgary on Thursday afternoon

A sign indicating a drop-off area behind Selkirk Elementary school in Whitehorse on Feb. 25. (Haley Ritchie/Yukon News)
Parking lot proposal for Selkirk Elementary criticized

Parents and school council are raising concerns about green space and traffic woes

adsf
WYATT’S WORLD

Wyatt’s World for Feb. 26, 2021

Josi Leideritz, the executive director for the Yukon Quest International Association (Canada), poses for a photo in Whitehorse on Oct.1, 2020. The Quest announced plans for its 2022 race to start in Fairbanks on Feb. 5. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
2022 Quest planning gets underway

Race would begin Feb. 5 in Fairbanks

Beadwork and boots being sold by the Yukon First Nations Culture and Tourism Association. A survey from StatsCan reveals the number of Indigenous people who make handmade crafts. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Survey reveals number of Yukoners who speak Indigenous languages

Yukon is behind Nunavut and Northwest Territories when it comes to language retention

Tom Ullyett, pictured, is the first Yukoner to receive the Louis St-Laurent Award of Excellence from the Canadian Bar Association for his work as a community builder and mentor in the territory. (Gabrielle Plonka/Yukon News)
Tom Ullyett wins lifetime achievement award from the Canadian Bar Association

Ullyett has worked in the Yukon’s justice ecosystem for 36 years as a public sector lawyer and mentor

The Blood Ties outreach van will now run seven nights a week, thanks to a boost in government funding. Logan Godin, coordinator, and Jesse Whelen, harm reduction counsellor, are seen here on May 12, 2020. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Blood Ties outreach van running seven nights a week with funding boost

The Yukon government is ramping up overdose response, considering safe supply plan

Ranj Pillai speaks to media about business relief programs in Whitehorse on April 1, 2020. The Yukon government announced Feb.25 that it will extend business support programs until September. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News)
Government extends business relief programs to September, launches new loan

“It really gives folks some help with supporting their business with cash flow.”

Whitehorse City Hall. (Joel Krahn/Yukon News file)
A look at decisions made by Whitehorse City Council this week

Bylaw amendment Whitehorse city council is moving closer with changes to a… Continue reading

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

Most Read