Yukon Government Turns Back on Peel Watershed, First Nations

Media Release
For Immediate Release

Oct 26, 2012

Yukon Government Turns Back on Peel Watershed, First Nations

Whitehorse, Yukon – The Yukon Government has chosen to put the wishes of multinational corporations above those of local people and First Nations, by announcing it wants to open up the Yukon’s treasured Peel River Watershed wilderness for mining and oil and gas development.

This flies in the face of the desires of affected First Nations, the recommendations of the land claims mandated Peel Watershed Planning Commission, and recent consultations with the Yukon public, who all favor conservation of this irreplaceable and globally important northern ecosystem.

“We Yukoners know that mining is important to our economy but some places are just too special to turn over to international companies to exploit,” said Karen Baltgailis, Executive Director of the Yukon Conservation Society (YCS). “The Peel watershed is one of those rare places.”

“All Canadians should look beyond the green-washing and see this announcement for what it is: an attempt to do an  end-run around the will of the Yukon people and a constitutionally mandated public process for land use planning in the Yukon,” said Gill Cracknell, Acting Executive Director of the Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society – Yukon Chapter (CPAWS-Yukon).

After years of scientific and cultural research, as well as First Nations and public review, a Final Recommended Plan was released in July 2011 by the Peel Watershed Planning Commission. Widely supported by the public, and endorsed by affected First Nations, the Commission’s plan calls for strong protection in 80% of the Peel Watershed—but that did not sit well with the Yukon government, which has now released its own proposal.

YCS and CPAWS-Yukon say the new Yukon Government proposal, written behind closed doors, is a road and resource development plan, not a conservation plan. In so-called “Protected Areas” roads and development of existing mining and oil and gas allocations would be allowed. In “Restricted Use Wilderness Areas (RUWA)” new and existing mining and oil and gas allocations could be developed, along with resource roads. And in “Restricted Use Wilderness Area River Corridors” existing mining and oil and gas allocations could be developed, as well as ‘temporary access’ and river crossings.

All of these categories are painted deceptive green colors on government’s maps. “Yukon government’s proposal gives lip service to conservation by ‘managing’ activities to preserve wilderness, cultural and tourism values, but provides no detail about how this would be done,” said Baltgailis. “Government says it is following the constitutionally mandated process under Yukon land claims by consulting on the Commission’s plan as well as their own proposal. But the Premier and his Ministers have made it clear they do not intend to adopt the Commission’s plan.”

“The Yukon Government says consultations on the Peel Watershed will continue through February 25, 2013, but Yukon people are already responding,” said Cracknell. “Yesterday citizens protesting against the Yukon government’s attack on the Peel plan overflowed the gallery on opening day of the legislature.”


For a CBC story on the Peel watershed click here.

For a local Yukon media story on the Peel watershed click here.




Karen Baltgailis                                                        Gill Cracknell
Executive Director                                                   Acting Executive Director
Yukon Conservation Society                                  CPAWS-Yukon
867-668-5678                                                           867-393-8080 ext. 6