Groups disappointed in Yukon government’s Peel plan

Two separate groups say they are disappointed in the Yukon Government's announcement that it will not ban development in the Peel region.

Peel Watershed Commission’s chair calls news ‘disturbing’

Two separate groups say they are disappointed in the Yukon Government’s announcement that it will not ban development in the Peel region.

The government rejected the Peel Watershed Land Use Planning Commission’s recommended plan for the area.

The commission’s chair, Dave Loeks, says that news is ‘disturbing’. It took the commission more than five years and $1.6 million to make the plan.

Dave Loeks, chair of the Peel Watershed Land Use Planning Commission, said the fact that the government is not going to ban development in the Peel is extremely disappointing. (CBC)

Loeks says the intent of the plan was to preserve wilderness in the Peel. He said the government’s new principles for development seem to drop that.

"I was dismayed. If you can take it at face value, they certainly read more like objectives than they do as principles. And if they’re objectives then it seems to me it’s either a misunderstanding in the planning process or it’s an attempt to circumvent it," he said.

Yukon’s Minister of Energy, Mines and Resources, Brad Cathers, said the government would not agree to ban mining in an area which he described as larger than the province of Nova Scotia.

Loeks said the commission was never told that.

"To me, it was like getting into the last 10 minutes of a major cup match and setting the ball down and announcing you don’t like how the game is played and you want to decide the pennant by some other means," said Loeks.

Loeks isn’t the only person disappointed. The chair of the Yukon Tourism Industry Association (TIA), Neil Hartling, said the government’s eight new principles are vague.

He said it’s hard to put any trust in the government’s motives or the objectives.

Hartling said he doesn’t see how any serious wildlife preservation can be assured under the parameters set by the Yukon Government.

"Changing the principles after seven years of public consultation and planning where the public participated in. And industry, in good will, points to a continued lack of certainty throughout the process, and certainty is something everyone wants - including the mining industry. And it questions the credibility of any planning process now in the Yukon," said Hartling.

Hartling said the TIA has asked successive governments for a wilderness land use policy for the past 20 years.

He said the planning commission made a land use plan which reflected the values of Yukoners, and which also recognized the long-term, economic, social and environmental value of the watershed.

Hartling wants the government to reinstate that plan.

Public consultation on the new plan will begin this spring.