Pressure builds on Peel

With the Chinese snapping up Yukon mineral properties, the need to protect the Peel Watershed from industrial development has become even greater, said the chair of the North Yukon Renewable Resources Council.

OLD CROW

With the Chinese snapping up Yukon mineral properties, the need to protect the Peel Watershed from industrial development has become even greater, said the chair of the North Yukon Renewable Resources Council.

“Right now, with all the mines and development happening in the Yukon, and investment, and now the Chinese are moving in, there’s even more potential for something to happen in that area,” Robert Bruce told a team of Yukon government officials at the first of a series of community meetings on the Peel land-use plan.

The plan calls for protection of 80 per cent of the 68,000-square-kilometre watershed. Bruce can live with that, but would prefer it was 100 per cent to protect the caribou and the fish.

And don’t even think about putting in new roads, the former New Democrat MLA warned. “Once access goes through, no matter if it’s only even winter access, we’re going to be in big trouble.”

Bruce was one of about a dozen people, tightly packed into the council’s meeting room, along with five bureaucrats and an “independent” facilitator all recently arrived on a chartered aircraft from Whitehorse.

By contrast, lone Peel Watershed planning commissioner Steve Taylor, who was invited at the last minute, had to come on the scheduled flight the day before, stay with friends and sit on the sidelines.

Taylor’s commission just spent the past five years reading the material, analyzing the information, listening to stakeholders, discussing the possibilities and producing the 350-page comprehensive Peel plan but, apparently, that doesn’t count for much now.

Too bad.

When he was given a few minutes to make some opening remarks, he provided much-needed context and a little comfort in the sea of bewildering bureaucratize and land-use lingo.

About an hour into the suppertime meeting, the facilitator turfed the carefully scripted agenda because it clearly wasn’t working: nobody wanted to play “comment-by-theme.”

All attempts to corral people’s comments in neatly packaged “theme” chutes failed. Rather than talk about the “conservation focus,” they wanted to speak about roads and caribou, protection and climate change, laws and implementation.

They also had plenty of questions.

Most were handled by Jen Meurer, a land-use planner with Energy, Mines And Resources, the department leading the consultation charge. Some were technical, but some delved into policy and politics.

What about climate change? What about the caribou? How is the plan going to be implemented? Is a railway going to be built? Are there going to be new laws to give the recommendations some clout? Will no really mean no, like the Berger Inquiry?

If anyone was keeping score, nobody during the three-hour meeting opposed the plan or the amount of land it protects.

Most of the Vuntut Gwichin First Nation’s traditional territory already has a land-use plan – the North Yukon plan was finalized in 2009.

Only a small percentage of Vuntut traditional territory falls within the Peel planning region. It has a couple of pieces of land and an interest in the wintering grounds of the Porcupine caribou, which includes the Peel.

Chief Joe Linklater, who is stepping down from his post in November, said his government hasn’t yet made “any hard and fast recommendations at this point” on the Peel plan.

But, he acknowledged, the “tricky part” is going to be getting agreement from all four First Nations and the Yukon government on whether to accept, reject or propose modifications to the plan before sending it back to the commission.

Appearing via video presentation, the chiefs of the Na-cho Nyak Dun and Tr’ondek Hwech’in made their Peel position abundantly clear.

“We need total protection out there,” said Na-cho Nyak Dun Chief Simon Mervyn in the 10-minute closing film. “The environment is not for sale, period.”

Tr’ondek Hwech’in Chief Eddie Taylor said it’s pulling out all the stops to protect the Peel, a region the members use all the time.

“The waters up there and the land has to be protected,” Taylor said. “There’s no other way.”

Transcripts of the public meetings will be posted on the Energy, Mines and Resources website: www.peelconsultation.ca, but not until two weeks after they take place.

The next community meeting is in Dawson City at the Tr’ondek Hwech’in Hall on August 23. There’s a drop-in session from 3 to 5 p.m. and a presentation and discussion from 7 to 9 p.m.

Yukon writer Mary Walden is doing a series of stories about the Peel consultation meetings. The former CBC journalist and Yukon News editor also co-owns a wilderness tourism company that does canoe trips in the region. You can read more Peel stories at http://peelwatershed.blogspot.com.

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

Just Posted

Yukon First Nation Education Directorate education advocates and volunteers help to sort and distribute Christmas hamper grocery boxes outside Elijah Smith Elementary School on Feb. 23. (Rebecca Bradford Andrew/Submitted)
First Nation Education Directorate begins Christmas hamper program

Pick-ups for hampers are scheduled at local schools

Cyrine Candido, cashier, right, wipes down the new plexi-glass dividers at Superstore on March 28, before it was commonplace for them to wear masks. The Yukon government is relaunching the Yukon Essential Workers Income Support Program as the second wave of COVID-19 begins to take place in the territory. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Yukon Essential Workers Income Support Program extended to 32 weeks

More than 100 businesses in the territory applied for the first phase of the program

City of Whitehorse staff will report back to city council members in three months, detailing where efforts are with the city’s wildfire risk reduction strategy and action plan for 2021 to 2024. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Council adopts wildfire risk reduction plan

Staff will report on progress in three months

asdf
WYATT’S WORLD

Wyatt’s World for Nov. 25, 2020

Ivan, centre, and Tennette Dechkoff, right, stop to chat with a friend on Main Street in Whitehorse on Nov. 24. Starting Dec. 1 masks will be mandatory in public spaces across the Yukon in order to help curb the spread of COVID-19. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News)
UPDATED: Masks mandatory in public places starting on Dec. 1

“The safe six has just got a plus one,” Silver said.

Lev Dolgachov/123rf
The Yukon’s Information and Privacy Commissioner stressed the need to safeguard personal information while shopping this holiday season in a press release on Nov. 24.
Information and Privacy Commissioner issues reminder about shopping

The Yukon’s Information and Privacy Commissioner Diane McLeod-McKay stressed the need to… Continue reading

Keith Lay speaks at a city council meeting on Dec. 4, 2017. Lay provided the lone submission to council on the city’s proposed $33 million capital spending plan for 2021 on Nov. 23, taking issue with a number of projects outlined. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Resident raises issues with city’s capital budget

Council to vote on budget in December

Beatrice Lorne was always remembered by gold rush veterans as the ‘Klondike Nightingale’. (Yukon Archives/Maggies Museum Collection)
History Hunter: Beatrice Lorne — The ‘Klondike Nightingale’

In June of 1929, 11 years after the end of the First… Continue reading

Samson Hartland is the executive director of the Yukon Chamber of Mines. The Yukon Chamber of Mines elected a new board of directors during its annual general meeting held virtually on Nov. 17. (Joel Krahn/Yukon News file)
Yukon Chamber of Mines elects new board

The Yukon Chamber of Mines elected a new board of directors during… Continue reading

The Yukon Hospital Corporation has released its annual report for 2019-20, and — unsurprisingly — hospital visitations were down. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Annual report says COVID-19 had a large impact visitation numbers at Whitehorse General

The Yukon Hospital Corporation has released its annual report for 2019-20, and… Continue reading

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

A look at decisions made by Whitehorse city council this week

City council was closed to public on March 23 due to gathering rules brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic. The council is now hoping there will be ways to improve access for residents to directly address council, even if it’s a virtual connection. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Solution sought to allow for more public presentations with council

Teleconference or video may provide opportunities, Roddick says

Most Read