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Yukon’s Peel River Planning Process

February 14, 2013

A decade ago the Yukon Government launched the Peel Watershed Planning Commission who developed a comprehensive land use plan that disallows development over 80% of the planning area. The government faces intense political pressure if it does not accept the plan and grave economic consequences if it does.

The Peel Watershed Planning Commission was formed on October 15th, 2004.  The Peel watershed planning region encompasses approximately 67,000 km2 of the Taiga Cordillera and Taiga Plains ecozones. Ecoregions within the planning region, include the Mackenzie Mountains, Peel Plateau, Fort McPherson Plain, North Ogilvie Mountains, British-Richardson Mountains and Eagle Plains.

There are no permanent communities within the planning region. The majority of the land is Crown owned. The planning region incorporates portions of four First Nations traditional territories. Communities with direct interests in the region include Mayo, Fort McPherson, Dawson and Old Crow. The Tetlit Gwich’in are the largest private landowners in the planning region, while the Na-cho Nyak Dun and the Tr’ondëk Hwëch’in also have private lands. The remainder, the majority of the land, is Crown owned. The Final Recommended Plan was released in July 2011. 

The Yukon Party government does not like the plan, largely due to the negative economic implications, which have not been all that well enunciated in the press.

The former Chair of the Planning Commission, Mr. Dave Loeks, has been a vociferous and outspoken proponent of the plan. The main arguments he cites in favour of the plan are all political:


The economic arguments not mentioned by Mr.Loeks and the other plan proponents have not been fairly raised or addressed.

The Peel Plan is not near adoption. The Yukon Government has put forward three alternate plans any one of which are better than the original plan. The Yukon Government must now discuss a revised plan with the 4 First Nation governments with an interest in the plan. The seeds of discontent have been sown by a lengthy and poor process.

Contrast the unfinished Peel watershed plan with the next door neighbor, the Gwich’in, in the NWT. They produced a land use plan in 5 years, 3 of which was waiting for the federal government, so really 2 years, versus a decade for acrimony. One can hope that the Yukon Government can make a decision that allows investment to occur with social license and Yukon’s prosperity is not jeopardized.