Peel plan heads into the home stretch

The Peel Watershed Recommended Land-Use Plan is now under public consultation, but the power to interpret citizens' remarks remains with the Yukon cabinet and First Nations chiefs.

The Peel Watershed Recommended Land-Use Plan is now under public consultation, but the power to interpret citizens’ remarks remains with the Yukon cabinet and First Nations chiefs.

The Peel land-use plan was dogged by scandal last year after Premier Dennis Fentie broke his own chain of command and interfered with the committee developing the plan.

But the breakdown in governance hasn’t resulted in clearer responsibilities and roles.

Instead, the Yukon government has decided to keep the power structure flexible, said John Spicer, director of corporate policy and planning in the Energy, Mines and Resources Department.

“When you’re dealing in a collaborative process, it’s really not just sort of one group or one person,” said Spicer.

On paper, the results of the public consultation will be considered by the senior liaison committee, which includes representatives from four First Nation governments and the Yukon government.

But the flexible approach in governance allows several situations to arise.

The members of the senior liaison committee have to report public input to their respective leaders.

However, the leaders don’t have to report to the other governments through the committee – they can just call each other up, essentially going around the committee structure.

“They can go both ways,” said Spicer.

While Fentie’s interference last May caused headaches for the commission, the Yukon government has decided to leave the final decision to him and his ministers.

“It’s the government’s leadership that makes the final decision and that’s known as a cabinet,” said Spicer.

The Yukon government announced public meetings and a new website for people to mull over the plan, released in December, and is granting people more than two months to submit remarks before the final plan is written.

The website, www.peelconsultation.ca, allows people to browse the work of the Peel Watershed Planning Commission, which took five years to gather scientific, cultural and economic data on the 67,000-square-kilometre region.

Its recommended plan called for the protection of more than 80 per cent of the Peel. The region currently has no protected zones, but is virtually roadless. Outfitters, tourism operators and conservationists argue it’s one of the most accessible yet pristine regions on Earth. Mining companies argue protection will hurt the Yukon economy.

But the government has decided not to enlist the services of the commission’s members in the home stretch of the final plan.

“The commission is expected to be present at the various community meetings and would no doubt be asked to say a few words with respect to the plan preparation,” said Spicer.

“But the responsibility for reviewing the plan rests with the parties.”

The senior liaison committee consists of Albert Peter from the Na-cho Nyak Dun First Nation, Hugh Monaghan from the Vuntut Gwitchin First Nation, Tim Gerberding from the Tr’ondek Hwech’in, Wilbert Firth from the Gwich’in Tribal Council and Angus Robertson with Yukon government.

Contact James Munson at

jamesm@yukon-news.com

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