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News archive for November 8, 2012

Emails portray disgruntled Environment staff

Documents obtained by the Yukon Liberal Party suggest Environment Yukon took a second seat to the Department of Energy, Mines and Resources (EMR) in developing the government’s approach to Peel watershed land use planning.

By Ainslie Cruickshank on November 8, 2012 at 3:52 pm

photo

Photo by Whitehorse Star

Liberals’ interim leader Sandy Silver and Environment Minister Currie Dixon

Documents obtained by the Yukon Liberal Party suggest Environment Yukon took a second seat to the Department of Energy, Mines and Resources (EMR) in developing the government’s approach to Peel watershed land use planning.

But Environment Minister Currie Dixon said today that both Environment and EMR have been involved right from the beginning.

The documents, obtained through the Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act (ATIPP), include email correspondences between senior Environment Yukon officials.

The emails provided to the Star by Liberal chief of staff Jason Cunning were sent on Feb. 16, 2012.

That was two days after the Valentine’s Day release of the Yukon Party’s eight principles for the Peel land use planning process.

One of the emails from an Environment Yukon employee notes it’s “interesting that this department has to get the planning ‘principles’ from a news release.”

That message was apparently in reply to an update sent to relevant Environment staff regarding the planning process.

The content of the update was not released in the ATIPP request.

Another email critiques the eight principles, saying they “are so general that they’re not much of a guide.”

The same email goes on to say, “I hope you carry forward our department’s overall messages of the need to not just disperse little protected areas around the region around our mapped WKAs (Wildlife Key Areas) (there’s a need for connectivity and areas of adequate size to mean something at a population level), and the lack of any protected areas in the region presently.”

Dixon told the Star today that “within all of the stuff that we put forward on the website and the public consultation documents, there are significant protected areas, there are very large protected areas, as well as a suite of new tools that government has to manage activity in that area.

“I would note that the restricted use wilderness areas, at any given time over 99 per cent of those areas will be protected and in their natural state.

“So I think that’s something we can’t underestimate; that’s a significant level of protection, and I’m optimistic that the tools that we’ve presented in the public consultation process will give the government the ability to protect the area.”

But Sandy Silver, the Liberals’ interim leader, said today that none of the government’s proposed concepts include large areas that are 100-per-cent protected.

Silver said he “can’t even begin to describe how upsetting it is.”

“I think that’s going to be to their detriment once we go through this process,” he said.

The government’s Protected Area designation, the proposed designation offering the highest level of protection, doesn’t explicitly rule out roads. However, Dixon said he thinks “it would be tremendously unlikely that it would ever be allowed.”

In the final recommended plan by the Peel planning commission, lands protected under the commission’s highest protection designation of Special Management Areas, would be completely withdrawn from any new land use and surface access, meaning no road access would be allowed.

In the same email previously noted, the writer mentions an analysis by an EMR employee on the government’s ability to regulate land uses in wetland Habitat Protection Areas with the current (as of Feb. 16, 2012) mineral regulatory system.

The Environment Yukon employee wrote: “I think its conclusions (that basically we can’t maintain conservation values with our present regs without withdrawals) are applicable to most areas where we want to maintain conservation values as a priority.”

Dixon said that’s why the government has presented “a new set of tools” for the land use plan.

“We agree that there are areas that need the highest level of protection, and we’ve presented a number of options and scenarios that include various distribution of those protected areas, but in other areas we think the intensity of activity can be managed,” he said.

“What we’re curious about, and what we want Yukoners to engage on, is whether they think those tools that we presented in those land use designations are appropriate and if they’re strong enough or give government enough power to protect values in that area.”

CommentsAdd a comment

sam

Nov 8, 2012 at 10:44 pm

Its pretty obvious that the Peel process is now directed in closed door meetings attended only by the Yukon Party.

Its shameful that there is a private agenda put forward for one stakeholder group, the mining industry, which contributed heavily to the Yukon Party’s election campaign. This is of course legal, but it promotes these awkward situations and it compromises the democratic process. The Yukon is not Quebec! Lets keep it that way but reform election contributions because the current situation is unethical.

Most Yukoners value wilderness and want politicians who sincerely listen to them. What happens when that does not occur? The government in power is then voted out during the next election.

Currie Dixon, Brad Cathers and the Premier can carry on like this but it will catch up with them during the next election and in legal battles with First Nations.

flyingfur

Nov 9, 2012 at 3:15 pm

It is pretty obvious to everyone where the government of Yukon wants to go with this.  To them the Peel is not first and foremost an issue of protection, but one of extraction…otherwise the department of Environment would be at the forefront of the “plan” as opposed to EMR.  Look who is doing all the public speaking on the plan (hint:  it is not anyone from Environment).

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