Yukon unveils revised Peel watershed plan

The Yukon government unveiled its version of a land-use plan for the Peel watershed on Tuesday, and it's designed to accommodate more development.

New plan would allow more development than commission's final report

The Yukon government unveiled its version of a land-use plan for the Peel watershed on Tuesday, and it’s designed to accommodate more development.

Premier Darrell Pasloski announced the government's proposed revisions to the plan at a news conference.

The Yukon government rejected the Peel Watershed Planning Commission’s 2011 final plan for the area. The commission’s final report had recommended protecting 80 per cent of the central Yukon wilderness area from development.

The government's new land-use plan includes two new "restricted use" areas — one for wilderness, the other for river corridors.

Debate over the Peel watershed was the big issue in last fall's election and has continued to dominate public forums.

Energy, Mines and Resources minister Brad Cathers said it's no secret his government has a difference of opinion when it comes to the planning commission's final plan.

"We committed to seeking a final plan for the Peel that protects the environment and respects all sectors of the economy," he said.

"And we've repeatedly made it clear we think the plan proposed by the former Peel Planning Commission should be modified and that the final plan can — and should — be more fair and balanced."

Cathers said under the new plan, the majority of the Peel area would remain pristine, but some potential development would be allowed.

Cathers said he's confident the Yukon government is "within the letter of the law" when it comes to the Peel, in response to questions over whether First Nations may launch a lawsuit.

Over the next four months, Yukoners and First Nation governments will have a chance to examine the changes and comment on them.

Just a development, not conservation, plan, say opponents

The Yukon Conservation Society said the new plan is to develop the area. Executive director Karen Baltgailis said she's disappointed, especially since government maps use green in areas where development will be allowed.

"I guarantee you that you will see a major road going up the Wind River, you will see roads going up all of the watersheds to access existing mining claims for exploration and development, the tourism values will be ruined and the cultural values will not be respected," said Baltgailis.

Baltgailis said she's also disappointed with the Environment Minister Currie Dixon, who said he wants the plan to be fair to everyone.

Baltgailis said he just wants to be more fair to miners.

Baltgailis said the government is writing off Yukoners' opinions gathered in previous consultations - she's encouraging those people to make their views known again.

She is also organizing a protest about the revised plan at the Yukon legislature when it's fall session opens Thursday.