Land use planning can prevent the loss of critical habitats and places of deep cultural importance for First Nations. It can provide a roadmap for determining how the land and natural resources will be used, managed and protected.
It only makes sense that societies take a holistic look at the land before transforming it with roads, mining and other forms of development.
The Umbrella Final Agreement between Yukon First Nations, the Government of Yukon and Government of Canada lays out a democratic process for regional land use planning that is truly owned by all Yukoners and represents our opportunity to shape the future of our land, people and wildlife.
Preparing a land use plan is the responsibility of Regional Land Use Planning Commissions with members nominated by both the Yukon Government and the First Nations whose traditional territory is in the region. The commission spends years assessing the social, environmental and economic values of a region and engaging with stakeholders and the public to understand different perspectives and land uses.
They aim to capture all of this knowledge and input into a regional land use plan that identifies specific areas for permitted or prohibited activities, such as mineral extraction, roads and other transportation, harvesting of renewable resources, and conservation. At the end of this process, the commission submits a Recommended Land Use Plan to the Yukon Government and affected First Nations for their approval.
Land use planning goes hand-in-hand with protecting Yukon’s wilderness. It is the vehicle through which we can protect areas of high environmental importance and critical wildlife habitat and where we can limit disturbance to ensure ecological integrity is the top priority. This might take the form of parks, but there are other types of protected or specially managed areas, in particular with First Nations leadership and co-management structures.
As the Yukon’s voice for wilderness, CPAWS wants to ensure that land use planning is informed by science and that ecological values are reflected in the process. Land use planning must account for the clean air, water and habitat that wilderness ensures for Yukoners, and it should be recognize the role of protected areas in conserving our diverse animal and plant life, as well as providing options for future generations.
Land use planning is also a matter of honouring the rights of First Nations and respecting the process that was committed to in the UFA which gives First Nations a voice in decision-making.
With some of the largest unspoiled natural areas in the world and some of the healthiest populations of Canada’s large wildlife, such as moose, caribou, grizzlies and wolves, we have a unique opportunity in the Yukon to protect intact wilderness for today and future generations. This is something that separates us from most of southern Canada, where the landscape has been fragmented.
But at the same time, we have gaps in the Yukon and conservation is not always given the attention it deserves. While land use planning helps us to identify important ecological areas at the regional level, it does not take a territory-wide approach to the Yukon’s environment, and this can be a detriment to nature and biodiversity.
A greater understanding of the conservation values across the whole territory would inform land use planning and could lead to stronger outcomes for the environment. Big picture thinking on wilderness protection can promote better connectivity between protected areas, which is critical for wildlife. It can also help take account of the transformational impacts being brought on by climate change in the Yukon.
While the Peel Watershed case gets resolved in the courts, the Yukon Government has put land use planning on hold. It made the announcement in January 2015, saying that no new regional commissions would be formed until there is clear outcome on the Peel.
Peel Watershed Land Use Plan
The Peel Watershed was identified in the First Nation of Nacho Nyak Dun Final Agreement, as well as the transboundary agreement between the Yukon and the Tetlit Gwich’in of the Northwest Territories. CPAWS Yukon was actively involved in the Peel Watershed land use planning process and is currently undertaking legal action, along with Yukon Conservation Society and the affected First Nations, to uphold the integrity of the land use planning process, which recommended that 80% of the Peel be protected. Click here to read more.
North Yukon Land Use Plan
The North Yukon Land Use Plan is the only regional land use plan completed. The commission began its work in 2004 and the Vuntut Gwitchin Government and Yukon Government approved the final plan in 2009. The establishment of Dàadzàii Vàn (Summit Lake - Bell River) Territorial Park is one of the outcomes, as the proposed protected area was identified in the plan. To read more about the plan, click here.
Dawson Regional Land Use Plan
The Dawson Regional Land Use Plan was to be the next one completed after the Peel and it was identified in Chapter 11 of the Tr'ondëk Hwëch'in Final Agreement. The work of the commission was suspended in 2014. To read more, click here.
Never miss your chance to make a difference! Enter your e-mail address here to get CPAWS news and actions delivered right to your inbox.Join mailing list