Brad Firth, aka 'Caribou Legs'

'It's going to be a very spiritual run for me through that area,' says Brad Firth, of his upcoming run down the Dempster Highway from Inuvik to Whitehorse. (Courtesy Brad Firth)

A Gwich'in man nicknamed "Caribou Legs" plans to run from Inuvik to Whitehorse with a message for Yukon's Premier  protect the Peel watershed.

This April, ultra long distance runner Brad Firth will carry protest letters from the Northwest Territories' Beaufort Delta region to Yukon Premier Darrell Pasloski.

“I hope to see him to hand deliver them,” Firth says.

After that, Firth says he’ll run from Vancouver back to Inuvik — a distance of 3,774 kilometres — to raise awareness about the Peel.

It won’t be the first time Firth has covered an extreme distance.

A recovering addict himself, Firth ran 740 kilometres from Fort Smith to Yellowknife last fall to raise awareness of addictions issues.

But this will be the first time he’s running for a political cause.

“I just think it’s necessary for me to stand up and say I don’t like what is going to happen down there,” he told the CBC in January. “I can’t see myself running down the highway in a Hazmat suit with a full mask on because the air is contaminated, the water is contaminated, these big rigs and trucks are driving past me.”

Peel watershed

The Yukon Government's plan for the Peel watershed will open up 71 per cent of the area to industrial development. Caribou Legs will run through the watershed all the way to Whitehorse.

Opposition was inevitable when the Yukon Government released its land use plan for the Peel watershed late in January.

Two Yukon First Nations and two conservation groups, backed by lawyer Thomas Berger, have already filed lawsuits saying the plan deviates too far from that proposed by a planning commission that spent over five years talking to First Nations and the public.

The commission called for 80 per cent of the 7,000 square kilometres to be withdrawn from industrial development; the government’s plan will protect just 29 per cent.

Firth says that plan will be devastating for the Gwitch’in people and the land.

“It's going to be a very spiritual run for me through that area,” says Firth. “I'll be really thinking about the history of this land and the people, all the work they put into it. You know, working there, living there, dying there. You know, celebrating this land that's given them life for all these years.”

Jody Overduin is with Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society Yukon, one of the two environmental groups taking the Yukon Government to court.

She says Firth’s run will instill hope.

“You never know what’s going to happen,” she says. “I mean the government has not yet filed their defence and there's definitely a lot of hope in that.”

The Yukon government has until early March to file its statement of defence in that suit.