I have not been following this story which has a beginning many years ago.
The recent release of a final plan has enraged the local communities. The perspective presented in this account speaks to a rather dramatic shift in intent by the Territorial Government in Whitehorse.
The Peel Watershed Planning Commission website was last updated in March 2013 with an announcement that consultation on the final Recommended Plan is over, and acknowledges their work is complete. A beautiful 8pg colour brochure dated December 2011 cites 80% of the watershed's 67,431 km2 is categorized as Conservation Area. The remaining 20% is left for development consideration as Integrated Management Areas.
Norman Snowshoe of the Gwich'in Tribal Council has expressed his shock over what appears to be a reversal of the protected/unprotected land status across the region. The new figures as presented in an updated brochure reflect the protected/unprotected figures cited by Mr. Snowshoe, 29% and 71% respectively. The Yukon Government has acknowledged that they modified the plan, but did so in accordance with the Umbrella Final Agreement (UFA) between themselves and the First Nations.
Next steps? The First Nations do not accept the changes and are reviewing the legalities of the Government's action. The Government says they reserved the right to accept, reject, modify under the UFA, and chose to modify to balance economic and conservation values. The Yukon Conservation Society highlights the weakness of even the protected areas.
On the surface, there is something not adding up for me. Or is it as simple as misunderstanding amongst the parties of what was intended with the original scope of protected and unprotected categories? If that was the case, what drove the process to make changes unilaterally? But maybe most importantly, the Government has already received their legal opinion. Were they anticipating a challenge to their revisions?
I will be following this a little more closely.
First Nations say land claims agreement violated, consider legal action
Northern News Services
Published Saturday, January 25, 2014
First Nations and conservation groups say the Yukon government’s decision to drastically modify and implement the plan for the Peel Watershed could be illegal.
The Government of Yukon released its Peel Watershed Regional Land Use Plan on Jan. 21. First Nations and conservation groups say changes to the plan were done without First Nations consultation. - map courtesy of Government of Yukon
The watershed encompasses 67,430 square kilometres and covers about 14 per cent of the Yukon.
In 2011, after years of consultations with First Nations and the public, the Peel Watershed Planning Commission recommended protecting 80 per cent of the watershed, 25 per cent of which would be under interim protection and reviewed every few years.
The Yukon government modified the plan to provide 29 per cent permanent protection, leaving 71 per cent of the watershed open to development.
The Yukon government released its finalized Peel Watershed Regional Land Use Plan earlier this month.