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Yukon officials deny interference in Peel watershed commission

Environment officials in the Yukon say accusations of political interference in the work of the Peel Watershed Planning Commission stem from a misunderstanding.

Environment officials in the Yukon say accusations of political interference in the work of the Peel Watershed Planning Commission stem from a misunderstanding.

The territorial Environment Department was criticized this week for allegedly withholding a technical report about the Peel River watershed from the commission following objections from Premier Dennis Fentie.

The report was originally supposed to be part of the government's submission to the commission, but email correspondence between senior government officials that recently surfaced said the report was axed after Fentie complained about it to deputy environment minister Kelvin Leary.

Members of the commission, which is working on a land-use plan for the Peel watershed, have said they want to see the government's original submission, including the information that was allegedly taken out.

The report is believed to have backed calls for strong conservation measures to protect the pristine watershed region in central Yukon.

Report meant as internal document, spokesman insists

Both Fentie and a spokesman for the Environment Department denied claims that any information was removed because of the premier's intervention.

"The document that people have been referring to is a document that was prepared for [the Department of] Energy, Mines and Resources," Environment spokesman Dennis Senger told CBC News on Wednesday.

"It's a document that we had provided to give to Energy, Mines and Resources, which has the corporate responsibility for the Yukon government of consolidating information from various departments in areas of land-use planning."

But Senger was unable to answer questions about the emails, sent between senior officials in the Environment Department and the Department of Energy, Mines and Resources,

In those emails, officials agreed to abandon the consolidated approach to the government's submission. The Environment Department decided to send its own comments to the commission, according to the emails.

Peel Watershed Planning Commission members have said they were expecting a detailed technical assessment from the territorial government, similar to the withheld technical report. Instead, they said they received only four pages of general statements. But Senger said he doesn't know anything about that.

Senger said the Environment Department has been helping the commission, providing it with technical information throughout the planning process.

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