Monday, July 29, 2013

Peel protection 'last-of-our-lifetime' chance

The Yukon government could do its bit to help protect at least 50% of Canada’s boreal forest by accepting the Peel commission’s final recommended land use plan, says a group of international scientists.
That plan recommends protecting 80% or 13 millions acres of the watershed.
It “should be adopted by the Yukon government,” says the International Boreal Conservation Science Panel in its new report, Conserving the World’s Last Great Forest is Possible: Here’s How.
Large scale conservation of areas like the Peel is one of  the “last-of-our-lifetime” opportunities for boreal protection from the Yukon to Newfoundland, says the report.
In every region, the “last great forest” is under siege from mining, oil/gas and forestry, it says.
But it’s not too late to strike a true balance between conservation and development if decision-makers take the panel’s recommendations on how to move forward.
Among the panel's key scientific guidelines:
  •  At least 50% of the boreal region should be permanently protected from further development to maintain current ecological processes and wildlife species.
  • Industrial activities on boreal lands, outside of those where development is prohibited, should be carried out with the lowest possible impact on biodiversity and the ecosystems.
  • Land-use planning should precede decisions regarding industrial development in the boreal and must be led by local communities. Particular attention must be paid to the views and concerns of aboriginal communities in the region.
  • The impact of development and other industrial boreal land use should be rigorously monitored and regularly and meaningfully reviewed by independent experts. 
The Yukon government told local media it’s not commenting on the panel's boreal report.
It's in final talks about the Peel plan with the four affected First Nations – Na-cho Nyak Dun, Tr’ondek Hwech’in, Gwich’in Tribal Council and Vuntut Gwitchin.
Up to this point, it has vehemently opposed the commission’s plan, saying the wilderness watershed should be open to industrial development.
It's drafted its own plan that protects virtually none of the watershed.
Click here to read the full Great Last Forest report.

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Frack no

The Council of Yukon First Nations has taken a strong stand against fracking.

The council, which represents most of the Yukon's 14 First Nations, as well as the N.W.T.'s four Gwich'in communities, passed a no-fracking resolution at its recent annual general assembly in Whitehorse.

It calls on the Yukon government to prohibit fracking in the territory and it declares all its traditional territories frack-free.

That includes the Peel watershed - homeland of Mayo's Na-cho Nyak Dun, Dawson's Tron'dek Hwech'in and Fort McPherson's Tetlit Gwich'in. The Vuntut Gwitchin, based in Old Crow, don't belong to the council.

So far the Yukon's fledgling oil and gas industry hasn't used hydraulic fracturing.

But it wants to.

Northern Cross, which is 60 per cent owned by China's CNOOC, spent this past winter exploring for oil and gas in the Eagle Plain basin. Its vast north Yukon holdings include parts of the Peel.

Last year it told assessors it wanted to use fracking, but later withdrew the controversial request.

Global petro-giant Chevron also has oil and gas interests in the northern Yukon, in addition to its Crest iron claims in the Peel.

It's paired up with Apache Resources to frack for natural gas in the B.C. portion of the transboundary Liard basin.The companies are eager to move into the Yukon part of the basin as soon as possible. But the territory's Kaska people have already made it clear they don't want fracking in the southeast region.

The industry has also set its sights on the Whitehorse basin. It stretches from Carcross to Carmacks and includes about 80 per cent of the Yukon's entire population. The current moratorium on its oil/gas development is only in place until the next territorial election.

In an attempt to quell growing opposition to fracking, the Yukon government recently created a committee of MLAs to study its "risks and benefits." 

Three of its six MLAs belong to the ruling Yukon Party: Environment and Economic Development Minister Currie Dixon, committee chair Patti McLeod (Watson Lake) and backbencher Stacey Hassard (Pelly-Nisutlin).

The others are NDP MLA Jim Tredger (Mayo-Tatchun), Liberal MLA Sandy Silver (Klondike) and Independent Darius Elias, who represents the riding of Vuntut Gwitchin.

So far the committee has only met once and that was behind closed doors. Most of its meetings will likely  be held in secret except for public meetings it has committed to hold in Old Crow and Watson Lake.

It's supposed to report its findings to the legislature by next spring.