Yukon North Of Ordinary

News archive for January 22, 2014

Blueprint protects 29 per cent of Peel planning region

The land use plan for the Peel River watershed released Tuesday afternoon is drawing fire.

By Chuck Tobin on January 22, 2014 at 3:21 pm

photo

Photo by Whitehorse Star

MINERAL, PETROLEUM DEVELOPMENT ACTIVITY ENVISIONED – Under the plan released Tuesday, the largest class of land use in the Peel watershed planning region, the wilderness area designation, applies to 44 per cent of the total area, or 29,702 square kilometres. It permits the staking of new mineral claims and the establishment of new oil and gas leases.

The land use plan for the Peel River watershed released Tuesday afternoon is drawing fire.

The plan has been denounced by the four affected First Nations and the pro-conservation sector, which wanted maximum wilderness protection for the planning region.

The Yukon Chamber of Mines says it’s concerned that the devil is indeed hiding in the details; that the additional land management requirements could make exploration and mining in the watershed unaffordable.

From the outset, the chamber is not happy with the additional amount of land withdrawn completely from mining.

The land use plan for the Peel has been controversial from the very first day the three different land use options were tabled for public discussion in January 2009.

The mining community wanted maximum access to the 67,430 square kilometres. The First Nations insisted on 100 per cent protection, with the full support of the Yukon Conservation Society, the Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society and other like-minded conservationists.

When the planning commission released its final recommendation in July 2011 calling for 80 per cent protection, the First Nations indicated their tacit approval, agreeing to move away from 100 per cent protection in favour of a resolution.

The mining community, on the other hand, went ballistic.

And the Yukon Party government indicated the land use plan recommended by the commission was unacceptable because it failed to provide balance between wilderness protection and economic development opportunities.

As 97 per cent of the planning region is territorial Crown land, the Yukon government has the final say over 97 per cent of the Peel planning area.

The plan released Tuesday establishes three distinct categories: Protected Area; Restricted Use Wilderness Area; and Integrated Management Area.

Protected Area

Twenty nine per cent of the planning region or 19,800 square kilometres has been designated as protected.

Under the designation, no new mineral claims or oil and gas leases are allowed, though the right to work the existing claims and leases, and to access those access by air or road, will be upheld.

There are approximately 8,300 existing mineral claims throughout the entire region, though the number of claims that exist inside the designated protected areas was not available this morning from the government.

As a sub-zone inside the protected areas, the plan establishes a wild river park zone which creates a corridor along both sides of the Hart, Wind, Bonnet Plume and Snake Rivers.

Land uses inside the wild river zone are essentially the same as activities allowed and prohibited inside the larger protected area, with some additional restrictions.

Inside the wild river park corridor, for instance, industrial activity is prohibited during the peak tourism period from July 1 to July 31.

Any ground disturbance by mining activity, even the lowest level of exploration, will have to be reclaimed each season.

Protected area designations also set the stage for the creation of natural environment parks and wilderness preserves.

Integrated Management Area

The integrated management designation accounts for 17,928 square kilometres or 27 per cent of the Peel planning region.

It’s described in the plan as the “working landscape” where most industrial activities will be allowed.

Integrated management areas also carry a subclass of designations from one to four.

Class one is the most environmentally sensitive, requiring the lowest level of development. Class four is the least sensitive, allowing for the greatest range of development.

The large majority of integrated areas is designated class three. Most of the areas either run along or are not far from the Dempster Highway.

As with all three of the land use designations, all-season roads will be permitted.

They cannot be permanent, however, and must be removed after they’ve served their purpose.

Any new roads in the Peel planning region will also be designated private and closed to public access.


Restricted Use Wilderness Area

By far the largest class of land use in the Peel planning region, the wilderness area designation, applies to 44 per cent of the total area, or 29,702 square kilometres.

It allows for the staking of new mineral claims and the establishment of new oil and gas leases.

While it allows for all-season roads, proponents must include a winter-only access option in their development proposal.

It also restricts access for low-level exploration activity to aircraft only.

Under the wilderness area designation, no more than 0.2 per cent of the entire surface area in a specific land management unit can be disturbed at one time.

The wilderness designation carries a variety of restrictions, such as prohibiting the use of off-road vehicles in sensitive areas and establishing no-fly corridors during the spring lambing season.

Any surface disturbance, including low-level exploration activity, must also be reclaimed every season under inside restricted use wilderness areas.

See related coverage, pages 4, 5.

By Chuck Tobin
Star Reporter

CommentsAdd a comment

Sebastian Jones

Jan 22, 2014 at 4:37 pm

The real problem with this action by the Yukon Government is not so much the details of the plan, poorly thought out though they might be.
The real problem is that by taking this action Yukon Government is demonstrating that it either does not understand or does not care what the Umbrella Final Agreement means. Taking a narrow view of the wording of a treaty between Canada, Yukon and Yukon First Nations and twisting it to coincide with your views does not fulfill the duty of government to live up to the spirit and intent of the treaty.
Yukon Government will discover this when it is told so by the courts. We do not live in the 1960’s, There is a wealth of jurisprudence that establishes how governments need to act. Yukon government failed to realize this when it lost to the Ross River Dene over its duty to consult before issuing mining claims, and it will be told this again in due course.

NorthernMike

Jan 22, 2014 at 6:46 pm

One request to the NDP and Liberals (note, this is coming from a NDP member), be politically smart, bind together, and form an alliance before the next election for the sake of the Peel and kick this Yukon Party out of power - we need to be realistic about the current electoral system and stop allowing the minority from deciding the future at the expense of what the majority want.

Anthony

Jan 23, 2014 at 2:40 pm

@NorthernMike

I whole heartedly agree in your sentiment. 
The left and centre need to dump their egos and exist under a single roof or they will be relegated to the sidelines forever.  I also don’t feel Liz is the right person to lead this alliance to victory.

north of 60

Jan 23, 2014 at 3:05 pm

Unite the opposition or lose the Peel.
What’s more important, the Peel or your fragile political egos?

bobby bitman

Jan 23, 2014 at 8:43 pm

I am also in agreement that since we do not have a system that produces a govenment with at least 50% of voter support, we all need to figure this out long before the next election and get rid of the Yukon Party.  They are bought and owned by the mining industry and could not care less about what Yukoners want.  Most of us voted against them in the past two elections, but we got them anyway and now they are busy wrecking the place to benefit their corporate donors with nothing but contempt for those of us who have a different vision for the Yukon.

My suggestion is that the parties withdraw from fielding candidates in ridings where the results were extremely close, such as Stephen Dunbar’s almost defeating Darrel Pasloski.  I don’t even know what party Stephen was running for, but the other should back out.  Likewise the Green Party.  It is too important, we need to work together.

CJ

Jan 24, 2014 at 8:55 pm

Well, one thing I know is I’m all for Stephen Dunbar-Edge running again.

Add a comment

In order to encourage thoughtful and responsible discussion, comments will not be visible until a moderator approves them. Please add comments judiciously and refrain from maligning any individual or institution. Read about our user comment and privacy policies.

Your full name and email address are required before your comment will be posted.

Commenting is not available in this section entry.

Comment preview