Archive for February, 2012

Yukon Government Tosses Out Recommended Peel Watershed Plan

Thursday, February 16th, 2012
A Yukon Government media release says that “eight core principles will be used to guide modifications and completion of the Peel Watershed Regional Land Use Plan.”
“The Yukon government continues to support an approach that balances access for industry and other users while establishing protection in key habitat areas in the Peel region. The principles will provide guidance for the timely completion of the remaining steps in this important land use planning process.”
The Yukon government will use these new principles “to guide strategic modifications to the draft Peel Plan”. The Government of Yukon principles are:
1. Special Protection for Key Areas
2. Manage Intensity of Use
3. Respect the First Nation Final Agreements
4. Respect the Importance of all Sectors of the Economy
5. Respect Private Interests
6. Active Management
7. Future Looking
8. Practical and Affordable
What Is the Yukon Government Saying?
At first glance, these principles may sound reasonable, but in fact they are aimed at converting the wild Peel watershed into a roaded, fragmented and developed landscape with a few “special” protected areas.
In response to this rejection of the recommended plan supported by First Nations and the public, CPAWS Yukon and the Yukon Conservation Society said they “condemn the Yukon government’s attempt to hijack the land-use planning process and open the Peel Watershed to industrial development.”
“… government imposed eight new principles designed to allow roads, uranium, coal and hard rock mining, and oil and gas development in one of the last intact boreal ecosystems on the continent.
“We hoped for more from the Pasloski government, but it is following the same unilateral approach used by the previous Fentie government,” said Mike Dehn, Executive Director of the Yukon Chapter of the Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society. “The government says it listens to the public, but then tosses out seven years of sound work and does what it wants.
“It is a reckless approach that puts government and the mining industry at odds with the wishes of the public and First Nations. That just provokes protests and, potentially long, drawn out lawsuits, which is poison to potential investors in the territory. This approach is not good for anyone.”
“Now, the government has concocted new principles, without any discussion with its partners, to simply gut a plan it doesn’t like.”
The CPAWS and YCS media release goes on to say that “the final Peel Watershed land-use plan reflects Yukoners’ overwhelming desire to see the region protected while allowing some economic development. The plan sets aside 55 per cent of the Peel Watershed as protected areas. Another 25 per cent of the region is assigned less secure interim ” Yukon government talks about balance, but the land-use planning commission has already produced a balanced plan,” said Karen Baltgailis, Executive Director of the Yukon Conservation Society. “It not only balances interests in the Peel, but counterbalances rampant development happening throughout the territory.”
“The public has been waiting for government to respond to the final Peel plan for months. Now, in the face of widespread public support for a wild Peel, government is trying to gut the process in an underhanded way,” said Dehn. “In doing so, the government threatens to undermine the established land-use planning process, which, in turn, would damage investor confidence in the territory as a safe place to invest.”

Distant alpine ridges beckon in the Hart River wilderness. J. Peepre