The North Yukon is not a model for the Peel

By David Loeks Brad Cathers has a problem. The minister of Energy Mines and Resources thinks the approach used in the North Yukon Regional Plan should be used in a revised Peel plan.

Brad Cathers has a problem.

The minister of Energy Mines and Resources thinks the approach used in the North Yukon Regional Plan should be used in a revised Peel plan.

Either Cathers doesn’t understand the North Yukon Plan’s methodology – which is serious – or he actually does understand it, which makes it worse.

By advocating the North Yukon model for the Peel, Cathers – and Premier Darrell Pasloski – show contempt for the stated interests of the Yukon people, including the First Nations.

Cathers’ favoured approach was developed to manage the booming oil and gas district of northern Alberta. As a planning model, its purpose was to see that woodland caribou could somehow survive in the teeth of oil, gas, forestry and infrastructure development.

The North Yukon plan had similar aims – to facilitate oil and gas development in the Eagle Plains area, while not utterly excluding the Porcupine caribou herd. It had little need to consider other values, since large conservation areas had already been established, and the planning area is mostly earmarked for oil and gas.

The Peel Watershed Planning Commission faced a very different challenge. The Peel planning area was open.

It had neither conservation set-asides, nor much development. It was known to have a range of natural resources, including wildlife, fish, water, and minerals in an expansive, roadless landscape. There were also the usual assortment of interests and stakeholders.

As the planning process unfolded, it was evident that the Peel’s wilderness landscape was a resource in its own right. People insisted that the Peel’s roadlessness was essential to their interests.

First Nations were absolutely clear that their cultural legacy lay in the Peel’s roadless, wilderness integrity. The outfitters, the wilderness tourism industry, and wilderness recreationists said the same. Nothing really new in this.

What was new, was that the majority of Yukoners believed this too. The commission knows this better than anyone. After all, we held the public meetings, and we met with the stakeholders, lobbyists, consultants, and experts.

We read all the letters, emails, and submissions to the commission and to the newspapers. Therefore we were not surprised when the Datapath survey confirmed what we already knew: that the majority of Yukoners wanted to keep the Peel roadless and wilderness. The bumper sticker “They want to protect the Peel from Yukoners” is ignorant of the facts.

To the nub: the First Nations and the majority of Yukoners don’t want roads in the Peel, while a minority (and the mining lobby) do. This is why the North Yukon plan is an invalid model for the Peel: it makes industrial development a given.

It offers merely to manage its “intensity.” Applied to the Peel, the North Yukon model will involve roads and bridges in the valleys of the Wind, the Bonnet Plume, and likely the Snake rivers. How can the minister not know this? His staff in EMR surely do.

The Peel planning commission chose a zoning model. It segregates industrial zones that include roads from conservation zones that don’t.

In the industrial zones, where it makes sense, the plan applied the North Yukon model. The Plan allows mining claims to be developed in conservation zones by air access. No economic sector is shut out in the Peel plan.

It is about preserving options for the future, not closing them down. It promotes the public interest – not those of a business sector.

Conservation biology provided serious reasons for large protected areas – the public interest reinforced these.

Either cabinet haven’t studied the matter carefully, or they understand that the North Yukon planning model is development by stealth. Cathers and Pasloski are either naive or cynical about democracy.

Likely the latter. It is cynical to claim a “mandate” on the basis of 40 per cent of the vote when only 60 per cent voted. It is colossally cynical to place the interests of outside mining speculators over the interests of the clear majority of Yukoners and First Nations.

We are booming. Society can always develop the minerals of the Peel later, but in the meantime the value of wilderness is growing steadily.

Why the reckless support of Outside speculators? Why flout the will of Yukoners? Why force First Nations into a lawsuit that could tie up land for years to come? The “miners’ compensation issue” is a red herring – but the likelihood of a lawsuit is serious. Whatever their motives, the interests of cabinet are not those of the Yukon people. Cabinet can still avoid a collision.

David Loeks was chair of the Peel Watershed Planning Commission.

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

Just Posted

Benjamin Poudou, Mount MacIntyre’s ski club manager, poses for a photo in the club’s ski rental area on Nov. 16. The club has sold around 1,850 passes already this year, compared to 1067 passes on Oct. 31 last year. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News)
Early season ski pass sales up as Yukoners prepare for pandemic winter

Season passe sales at Mount McIntyre for cross-country skiing are up by around 60 per cent this year

The City of Whitehorse will be spending $655,000 to upgrade the waste heat recovery system at the Canada Games Centre. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
New waste heat recovery system coming to the CGC

Council approves $655,000 project

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

Cody Pederson of the CA Storm walks around LJ’s Sabres player Clay Plume during the ‘A’ division final of the 2019 Yukon Native Hockey Tournament. The 2021 Yukon Native Hockey Tournament, scheduled for March 25 to 28 in Whitehorse next year, was officially cancelled on Nov. 24 in a press release from organizers. (John Hopkins-Hill/Yukon News file)
2021 Yukon Native Hockey Tournament cancelled

The 2021 Yukon Native Hockey Tournament, scheduled for March 25 to 28… Continue reading

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

Most Read