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.


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:, 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

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

Just Posted

Team Togo member Katie Moen sits in a sled behind a snowmobile for the ride from the airport to Chief Zzeh Gittlit School. (Haley Ritchie/Yukon News)
Coming together: How Old Crow became one of the first communities in the world to be fully vaccinated

Team Togo and Team Balto assembled with a mission to not waste a single dose of vaccine

Main Street in Whitehorse on May 4. If council moves forward with bylaw changes, eating and drinking establishments could set up pop-up patios in on-street parking spaces. (Stephanie Waddell/Yukon News)
Patios may be popping up in Whitehorse this summer

City considers program for downtown restaurants and bars

The Yukon Coroner's Service has confirmed the death of a skateboarder found injured on Hamilton Boulevard on May 2. Gabrielle Plonka/Yukon News
Whitehorse man dies in skateboarding accident

Coroner urges the use of helmets, protective gear, while skateboarding.

The new Yukon Liberal caucus poses for a photo during the swearing-in ceremony held on May 3. (Yukon Government/Submitted)
Liberal cabinet sworn in at legislature before house resumes on May 11

Newly elected MLA Jeremy Harper has been nominated as speaker.

The Yukon Wildlife Preserve’s baby bison, born April 22, mingles with the herd on April 29. (John Tonin/Yukon News)
Yukon Wildlife Preserves welcomes two bison calves

A bison calf was the first 2021 baby born at the Yukon Wildlife Preserve

A map provided by the Yukon government shows the location of unpermitted logging leading to a $2,500 fine. (Courtesy/Yukon government)
Man fined $2,500 for felling trees near Beaver Creek

The incident was investigated by natural resource officers and brought to court.

The site of the Old Crow solar project photographed on Feb. 20. The Vuntut Gwitchin solar project was planned for completion last summer, but delays related to the COVID-19 pandemic pushed it back. (Haley Ritchie/Yukon News)
Old Crow is switching to solar

The first phase of the community’s solar array is already generating power.

Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Brendan Hanley. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
One new case of COVID-19 in the Yukon

Case number 82 is the territory’s only active case

Flood and fire risk and potential were discussed April 29. Yukoners were told to be prepared in the event of either a flood or a fire. Submitted Photo/B.C. Wildfire Service
Yukoners told to be prepared for floods and wildland fire season

Floods and fire personelle spoke to the current risks of both weather events in the coming months.

From left to right, Pascale Marceau and Eva Capozzola departed for Kluane National Park on April 12. The duo is the first all-woman expedition to summit Mt. Lucania. (Michael Schmidt/Icefield Discovery)
First all-woman team summits Mt. Lucania

“You have gifted us with a magical journey that we will forever treasure.”

Whitehorse City Hall (Yukon News file)
City news, briefly

Whitehorse goings-on for the week of April 26

The Yukon Department of Education in Whitehorse on Dec. 22, 2020. The department has announced new dates for the 2021/2022 school year. (John Hopkins-Hill/Yukon News file)
Yukon school dates set for 2021/22

The schedule shows classes starting on Aug. 23, 2021 for all Whitehorse schools and in some communities.

Most Read