The future of the Peel watershed topped a host of environmental issues raised at an all-party forum Tuesday attended by more than 200 people.
Na-cho Nyak Dun chief Simon Mervyn told the crowd his First Nation is working with mining companies in some parts of its traditional territory, but it's opposed to industrial development in the Peel watershed.
"Protection for the Peel River watershed is not a choice between mining or the environment," Simon said as he asked representatives from the five political parties about their position on the final recommended Peel land use plan.
Only Yukon Party leader Darrell Pasloski didn't commit to endorsing and implementing the plan if re-elected.
Calling the plan to protect 80 per cent of region divisive, Pasloski said: "Government isn't about picking winners and losers. It's about bringing people together to find solutions that work for all of us."
He also said he wants to know more about the cost of withdrawing land in the Peel from development.
That prompted Liberal leader Arthur Mitchell to question what the costs would be if the plan was rejected. He also chided the Yukon Party for "hiding behind the process.."
While the Liberals have said they'd deal with Peel mineral claim-holders individually with regard to compensation, the NDP's Liz Hanson said that's a separate issue entirely.
The Peel planning commission was "not charged with the public policy decision about how and if we should provide compensation when the Yukon decides that we need to make land use for other public purposes other than mining," said Hanson.
Green Party leader Kristina Calhoun also dismissed Pasloski's contention that saving the Peel from development is going to cost the government money.
"I just don't want anyone to be afraid that we are going to lose education, we are going to lose this, that or the other thing is we save the Peel," she said to the loudest applause of the night.
Yukon Conservation Society's executive director Karen Baltgailis said she was pleased with the strong turnout but not surprised because organizers know the environment is an important election issue.