The Peel plan is an RRSP for the watershed

By David Loeks The Peel watershed plan is good public policy. No one has studied the facts and the trade-offs more than the Peel Watershed Planning Commission. Here is our experience.

By David Loeks

The Peel watershed plan is good public policy. No one has studied the facts and the trade-offs more than the Peel Watershed Planning Commission. Here is our experience.

First, planning in the Yukon is required by the Umbrella Final Agreement. We have to plan and we have to use the legally binding process set out by the UFA. We can’t just make one up.

Here is the rub. First Nations, guides, ecotourism businesses, biologists and thousands of people across the Yukon and Canada value the Peel because it is roadless wilderness. To them, building roads into the Peel ruins it. On the other side, the mineral industry says that mining claims without road access have no value. So there we have the deal breaker: roads or no roads.

The claim that there is a “compromise for Yukoners” that permits roads and mining in the Peel without full-on restoration or large-scale conservation zoning is a fraud. That is not a compromise by any definition whatsoever. When Energy, Mines and Resources Minister Brad Cathers says that “provisions for reasonable access” (meaning roads) will be provided to mining claims throughout the watershed, he is really saying to the First Nations and to thousands of others, “You get nothing” and to mining speculators, “You get it all.”

As written, the Peel watershed plan is good public policy because it is the compromise. It is the balanced approach. Here is why:

1) It is fair and respects all interests. Mining is not banned – not even in the conservation zone. Industry can access and develop its mining claims by air just as they currently do. There is no remotely economical mine prospect known in the Peel. There is time enough to prove up claims before emerging heavy lift hybrid air vehicles will make remote mining economical. The aviation industry knows this is coming and progressives in the mineral industry know this too. (See www.airshipstothearctic.com.)

2) It is the result of honest inquiry. The science spoke. The interests spoke. The people spoke. The issues were analyzed. The plan is the outcome. It is not the result of pre-determined politics, like the Yukon government’s “Eight Principles.”

3) It respects relationships and core interests. Most importantly, the relationship of the First Nations with the Yukon government through the UFA planning process is respected. The interests of the First Nations in their traditional homeland are respected. The interests of renewable resource businesses and non-renewable resource businesses are respected. The stated views and interests of the Yukon people are respected. No sector or interest got exactly what it wanted; no sector or interest was shut out.

4) It is economically sound. Our current economy is one of full employment and prosperity. There is no demonstrable need to open the Peel to industrial development at this time. This would only harm existing outfitting and tourism businesses, endanger wildlife resources, discredit land use planning and embitter relations with the First Nations. The plan is like an RRSP: all the values remain and get more valuable. The future value of the resources in the Peel can only go up. Their higher future value can profitably cover the increased costs of responsible access.

5) It is scientifically sound. The science of conservation biology emphasizes the importance to wildlife of maintaining large intact habitats, unfragmented by roads, trails, and pipelines. Just read the papers: wildlife in much of the Yukon is under pressure wherever roads and access exist and it is getting worse in the present staking boom. Until we learn to balance development and wildlife better, it is prudent to leave the Peel intact.

And finally it is our legacy.

If we “develop” the Peel now with roads, our grandchildren will never have any choices in the matter – and it is certain that there will be few if any roadless areas left for them. The plan offers a way to develop the mineral potential of the Peel – by air access – without destroying the value that makes this such a keenly contested place – its roadlessness.

At the end of our days when we stand before our Creator or perhaps our unborn descendants, how will we answer this question: “Did you leave the world a better place?”

David Loeks is chairman of the

Peel Watershed Planning Commission.

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

Just Posted

Crystal Schick/Yukon News file
Ranj Pillai, minister of economic development, during a press conference on April 1.
Government rejects ATAC mining road proposal north of Keno City

Concerns from the First Nation of Na-Cho Nyäk Dun were cited as the main reason for the decision

asdf
WYATT’S WORLD

Wyatt’s World for Dec. 2, 2020

Whitehorse and Carcross will be among seven northern communities to have unlimited internet options beginning Dec. 1. (Yukon News file)
Unlimited internet for some available Dec. 1

Whitehorse and Carcross will be among seven northern communities to have unlimited… Continue reading

Willow Brewster, a paramedic helping in the COVID-19 drive-thru testing centre, holds a swab used for the COVID-19 test moments before conducting a test with it on Nov. 24. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News)
An inside look at the COVID-19 drive-thru testing centre

As the active COVID-19 case count grew last week, so too did… Continue reading

Snow-making machines are pushed and pulled uphill at Mount Sima in 2015. The ski hill will be converting snow-making to electric power with more than $5 million in funding from the territorial and federal governments. (Joel Krahn/Yukon News file)
Mount Sima funded to cut diesel reliance

Mount Sima ski hill is converting its snowmaking to electric power with… Continue reading

Fossil finds at Mt. Stephen. (Photo: Sarah Fuller/Parks Canada)
Extreme hiking, time travel and science converge in the Burgess Shale

Climb high in the alpine and trace your family tree back millions of years – to our ocean ancestors

Black Press Media and BraveFace have come together to support children facing life-threatening conditions. Net proceeds from these washable, reusable, three-layer masks go to Make-A-Wish Foundation BC & Yukon.
Put on a BraveFace: Mask fundraiser helps make children’s wishes come true

From Black Press Media + BraveFace – adult, youth and kid masks support Make-A-Wish Foundation

Colin McDowell, the director of land management for the Yukon government, pulls lottery tickets at random during a Whistle Bend property lottery in Whitehorse on Sept. 9, 2019. A large amount of lots are becoming available via lottery in Whistle Bend as the neighbourhood enters phase five of development. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Lottery for more than 250 new Whistle Bend lots planned for January 2021

Eight commercial lots are being tendered in additional to residential plots

The Government of Yukon Main Administration Building in Whitehorse on Aug. 21. The Canada Border Services Agency announced Nov. 26 that they have laid charges against six people, including one Government of Yukon employee, connected to immigration fraud that involved forged Yukon government documents. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Charges laid in immigration fraud scheme, warrant out for former Yukon government employee

Permanent residency applications were submitted with fake Yukon government documents

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

A look at decisions made by Whitehorse city council this week

Karen Wenkebach has been appointed as a judge for the Yukon Supreme Court. (Yukon News file)
New justice appointed

Karen Wenckebach has been appointed as a judge for the Supreme Court… Continue reading

Catherine Constable, the city’s manager of legislative services, speaks at a council and senior management (CASM) meeting about CASM policy in Whitehorse on June 13, 2019. Constable highlighted research showing many municipalities require a lengthy notice period before a delegate can be added to the agenda of a council meeting. Under the current Whitehorse procedures bylaw, residents wanting to register as delegates are asked to do so by 11 a.m. on the Friday ahead of the council meeting. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Changes continue to be contemplated for procedures bylaw

Registration deadline may be altered for delegates

Most Read