The Yukon government says it won’t ban mining or any other resource development in the Peel watershed.
Minister for Energy, Mines and Resources Brad Cathers says the government favours managing the intensity of development in the area instead of outright bans.
The Peel Land Use Commission had recommended that 80 per cent of the Peel River watershed be designated as conservation areas. But Cathers said the government has no plans to prohibit access to, or use of, the region’s resources.
"We were not going to go down the road of banning mining in an area larger than the province of Nova Scotia," he said.
Cathers said some specific areas with environmental or cultural significance will be protected.
'We were not going to go down the road of banning mining in an area larger than the province of Nova Scotia.' —Brad Cathers, Energy, Mines and Resources minister
"There are people that are strongly in favour of not allowing mining activity at all in that area," said Cathers.
"There are also other people that would like to see mining activity without any restrictions everywhere. We believe that most Yukoners don't fall to either extreme end of the spectrum."
Karen Baltgalis with the Yukon Conservation Society says the plan recommended by the Peel Land Use Commission was balanced because it allowed for development in up to 45 per cent of the region.
She says the specific sites the government is promising to protect are "postage stamps."
The Yukon government now has eight principles to guide development in the area. They include respecting First Nation final agreements, private interests and all sectors of the economy.
Baltgalis says the principles have come from the government, not from First Nations or the public.
"Well all I can say is the Yukon Government’s 'new principles' are completely unprincipled," she said.
The political battle over the Peel watershed will resume when the government puts out its plan for public comment. The plan is expected to come out this spring.