The Yukon government has expressed its opposition to the Peel River Planning Commission's proposed land use plan for the Peel River watershed.
In a release issued late Friday afternoon, the Yukon government said it does not agree with the commission's proposed land use plan, which calls for 80 per cent of the watershed area to be protected from mineral staking and other industrial development.
Some have been calling for the entire 67,000-square-kilometre wilderness area in northeastern Yukon to be off-limits to development, while those who want to explore for minerals in the area say 80 per cent protection is already too much.
One point the Yukon government says it disagrees with is the commission's interpretation of a chapter in the Yukon First Nations Final Agreement that deals with land-use planning and establishes the land use planning council.
The government said it believes the Peel watershed plan "should provide a more balanced consideration of the current and future uses in the region and propose management options that would allow for those uses to continue.
"Beneficial socio-economic change can be realized without undermining the ecological and social systems," the government's news release states in part.
The Yukon government and affected First Nations will issue a joint response to the planning commission by February, the government said.
"Clearly, the First Nations have a different take on the spirit and intent of the final agreement, so in a way it comes down to a legal question of what is the spirit and intent of the final agreement," Karen Baltgailis, executive director of the Yukon Conservation Society, told CBC News late Friday.
"I personally find it difficult to see how they will come up with a joint response from the affected First Nations and the Yukon government when the positions are so different."
The government also called for a more streamlined regional land use plan.
Territorial government officials were not available to comment on Friday. Representatives from affected First Nations and the mining industry were also not available for comment.
Liberal Leader Arthur Mitchell said he is disappointed not just with the government's response, but also with the timing of it right before the Christmas holidays.
"It's obvious that the government recognizes that this is not going to be popular among many Yukoners — starting with the First Nations, but far more than the First Nations," Mitchell said.
"I guess there's a subtext that I see, and that's the Yukon government doesn't want to come out and say where they stand on this," NDP Leader Liz Hanson said. "My blunt read is that this is just buying more time."
The Yukon government did meet with First Nations governments earlier this week and agreed to extend a temporary mineral staking ban in the Peel River region for one more year while they work out details of the land-use plan.
The Yukon government has not asked the Peel River Planning Commission to reconsider its recommendations for protecting the Peel River watershed, as originally reported. It has expressed its opposition to the planning commission's proposed plan for the watershed.Oct 17, 2013 8:34 PM CT