Will the Planning Commission & Yukon Government Listen to the Public?
According to poll results released in the Yukon last week by three non-government organizations, the great majority of Yukon people support a large protected area in the Peel watershed wilderness. The poll, commissioned by the Yukon Chapter of the Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society (CPAWS-Yukon), the Yukon Conservation Society (YCS) and the Tourism Industry Association of the Yukon (TIAY) shows that 78% of Yukon people seek full protection for more than half of the watershed.
According to a news release by the sponsoring groups, the poll found that “75% of Yukoners feel that the main priority in the Peel watershed should be protection of the environment, wildlife and wilderness. The public is following the issue, with 71% of Yukoners responding that they are aware of the discussions about the future of the Peel Watershed.”
“The poll shows that 91% of Yukoners think roads should not be allowed in any river corridors or important wildlife and wilderness areas in the Peel Watershed. It also shows that 72% of Yukoners think roads would have a major impact on the health of wildlife populations.”
In the news release, YCS Executive Director Karen Baltgailis said the poll “shows that Yukon people believe that the only way to protect the incredibly valuable wilderness and wildlife we have in the Peel is to have large areas that are fully protected from roads and industrial development.” Supporting this view, the poll revealed that 91% of Yukoners feel that road access should be limited or not allowed anywhere in the watershed, with 41% of these stating that roads should not be allowed anywhere in the Peel basin.
The draft land use plan released earlier this year by the Peel Watershed Planning Commission recommended grandfathering in all the existing mining claims – more than 10,000 in all, effectively negating efforts to legally protect the land. In strong contrast to this approach are the 58% of Yukoners who feel that all mining claims in the area should be removed, with compensation offered only to those who staked claims before the planning process started. Claim staking increased by 500% after the start of land use planning in 2004.
Political reaction to the poll was mixed, with Elaine Taylor, Minister of Environment, distancing herself from the obvious public support for conservation by saying the integrity of the planning process was important and that the Peel Planning Commission would consider the poll results. These comments contrast with the earlier direct interference in land use planning by Premier Fentie, who suppressed Department of Environment information critical to the planning process. The Liberal leader, Arthur Mitchell, declined comment, while the former leader of the NDP, Todd Hardy, said the government “has no option but to ensure that critical areas of the Peel watershed are protected.”
The final plan recommendations of the Peel Watershed Planning Commission are expected later this fall.
A Traveller’s Guide to the Peel Watershed
Wild Rivers of the Yukon’s Peel Watershed: A Traveller’s Guide, is your complete source for planning a trip to the Yukon’s vast north-eastern wilderness – and learning more about the natural and cultural history of this inspiring landscape. Published in 2008 by Juri Peepre and Sarah Locke, the book is available from Yukon outdoor and bookstores (Mac’s Fireweed, Up North Adventures), Mountain Equipment Co-op (Vancouver, Calgary, Toronto), and on-line from www.yukonbooks.com.
Wild Rivers is an essential companion to help you navigate the Three Rivers country (the Wind, Snake and Bonnet Plume), as well as the Peel, Hart, Ogilvie, Blackstone and Rat rivers. This well illustrated field reference will be a welcome gift for your friends or family who are thinking about a future northern canoeing or hiking trip.
The book features detailed river descriptions, maps, landscape and historic photos, tips on river travel in the Peel region, and engaging descriptions of the flora, fauna, geology, human history and conservation story. For more information, see About Our Book posted in the right margin.
To order the book directly from the authors, send a cheque or money order payable to Juri Peepre, 1575 Windermere Loop Road, Windermere, BC, V0B 2L2. Price: $24.95 + $1.19 GST + Shipping = $32.00 CDN. For more information, phone 250-688-1005, or post your comment or question in this blog.