Wednesday, 16 April 2014, 9:07 pm

Peel River ‘irreversibly compromised’

Na-cho Nyak Dun Chief Simon Mervyn and Jill Pangman, in the stern of the canoe, floating down the Wind River in the Yukon’s Peel Watershed. PHOTO BY MIKE DEHNThe vast boreal ecosystem of the Peel River Watershed is being irreversibly compromised by the Yukon government and its planning commission.
Peel has been a place of ecological and cultural preservation for generations within the First Nations communities of Northern Yukon and parts of the Northwest Territories. It is one of the largest self-sustainable ecosystems left within North America that is now being exploited by industrialised development for capital gain.
This pure and essential landmark was first tarnished when the decision to open access to the Peel by adding roads and mining sectors was considered an option for strong economic growth.
The Yukon government implemented it with negative results from the public. This action influenced a number of interest groups, such as the members of www.protectpeel.ca, The Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society and The Yukon Conservation Society.
On Jan. 21, the Yukon government approved a land use plan that promotes extraction of minerals, oil and gas by hydraulic fracturing as well as the industrial development of these companies, unwelcomed by those native to the land. This jeopardizes the ecosystem that the First Nations of Tetlit Gwich’in, Vuntut Gwitchic, Tr’ondëk Hwëch’in and Na-Cho Nyak Dun rely on to uphold their cultural rights and practices including traditional medicines, hunting, and harvesting. It’s inexcusable for any government agency or commission to repress those native to the land, including the First Nations and animals living in their natural habitats, for monetary gain. The protection of this land should not be in question.
Economic growth can be attained through tourism and educational programs using the natural resources at hand. Protection groups, conservation groups and environmental advocates, such as David Suzuki, have spoken about such possibilities. Suzuki called the move an “attack” on the environment.
Conversation and sustainability of our natural resources is the only way we will be able to support future preservation of our cultures and wildlife. Protect the Peel River watershed.

LIANE ABBEY

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