Yukon and First Nations governments approve the Peel Watershed Regional Land Use Plan
Located in northwest Canada, Yukon’s Peel watershed covers 67,431 square kilometres of wilderness that is rich in biodiversity. The plan provides direction for managing land and resources in this region.
Conservation Areas make up 83 per cent of the watershed, and Integrated Management Areas make up the remaining 17 per cent.
The cornerstone of the plan is sustainable development. This guides the plan in 3 areas:
- environmental protection;
- heritage and culture protection; and
- economic development.
The land base is divided into 16 Landscape Management Units:
- 6 Special Management Areas make up 55 per cent;
- 4 Wilderness Areas make up 25 per cent;
- 2 Wilderness Areas – Boreal Caribou designations make up 3 per cent; and
- 4 Integrated Management Areas make up 17 per cent.
Each landscape management unit has recommendations on land use, conservation and monitoring.
About the Peel River watershed
Located in northwest Canada, Yukon’s Peel watershed covers 67,431 square kilometres of wilderness that is rich in biodiversity.
There are 6 major rivers in the region:
- the Snake;
- the Wind;
- the Bonnet Plume;
- the Hart;
- the Ogilvie; and
- the Blackstone.
Among large North American watersheds, the wilderness character of the Peel is unique:
- there are no permanent residents;
- few roads; and
- limited development.
83 per cent of the region is made up of Conservation Areas
We’ll manage these areas to:
- conserve or protect ecological and cultural resources; and
- maintain the wilderness characteristics in the long-term .
Do not allow:
- new industrial land-use dispositions, such as mining; or
- new surface access, such as a road.
Conservations Areas respect existing mineral claims and leases and are further characterized by 3 designations:
Special Management Areas
55 per cent of the region will be permanently withdrawn from mineral staking and the issuing new oil-and-gas rights. The region will have many protected areas, and each will have management plans.
25 per cent of the region is withdrawn from mineral staking and the issuing new oil-and-gas rights for a limited time. This will be reviewed as part of a formal, longer-term public plan review done by a committee representing all parties.
Wilderness Areas – Boreal Caribou
3 per cent of the region is made up of Wilderness Areas with additional requirements for protection including management planning.
17 per cent of the region is made up of Integrated Management Areas
In these areas, a variety of land uses and new surface access are allowed, such as roads and mining. Different zones allow varying levels of development and surface disturbance. Proposed projects will need to go through the normal regulatory and assessment processes.
After new roads and trails are no longer needed, they must be reclaimed. Development thresholds will be set. Impacts will be monitored and limited as they accumulate.
The plan includes 42 recommendations
- develop a management plan for the Dempster Highway Corridor;
- delist the Wind River Trail as a road;
- limit off-road vehicle use to specific locations within the region;
- ensure new roads are temporary and not for public use;
- do not allow infrastructure along major rivers; and
- all parties agree on a process for deciding if a development proposal fits with the plan.
Changes from the 2011 recommended plan
In 2017, the Supreme Court of Canada directed the territorial and First Nations governments to conduct consultation on the 2011 recommended plan with affected First Nations and communities. The direction also stipulated that changes could be made if these were:
- minor in nature; or
- in response to changing circumstances since 2011.
When consultation was complete, the parties agreed on the following changes.
To protect critical habitat for Boreal Caribou, we created a new land use designation. Wilderness Areas – Boreal Caribou now applies to:
- Landscape Management Unit 15 (Peel Plateau East); and
- Landscape Management Unit 16 (Jackfish Creek Lakes).
This designation mimics the Wilderness Areas designation, but includes additional considerations to meet new obligations under the federal Species at Risk Act. These obligations came into force in 2012, with the release of the recovery plan for the Boreal Caribou.
We also added:
- a policy recommendation for protecting boreal caribou habitat in Integrated Management Areas; and
- a research recommendation in support of Boreal Caribou conservation.
We ensured this section was clear on the involvement of all parties in the implementation decisions. We also clarified that a comprehensive plan review involving all parties is required to change the withdrawal status of:
- Wilderness Areas; and
- Wilderness Areas – Boreal Caribou.
- Revised the history of the planning process to reflect the steps taken between 2011 and 2019.
- Updated information about the region as much as possible.
- Referenced policies and legislation that are new or in development since 2011.
- Revised the names of historic sites and traditional places that have changed since 2011.
- Added a policy recommendation to research, and use traditional place names wherever possible throughout the planning region.
- Included a reference to the proposed Government of Yukon fibre optic line from Dawson City to Inuvik along the Dempster Highway.
- Updated maps to reflect the agreed-to contiguous border between the Traditional Territories of the:
- Tr’ondëk Hwëch’in; and
- Vuntut Gwitchin First Nation.
Moving forward to implementation
We will all be involved in implementation of the plan. The 1st step is to develop an implementation plan. Priorities include:
- prohibiting mineral staking in the Conservation Areas by withdrawing lands by Order in Council;
- legally designating Special Management Areas and Wilderness Areas – Boreal Caribou;
- creating management plans for Special Management Areas and Wilderness Areas – Boreal Caribou;
- establishing national historic sites for Tshuu tr’adaojiich’uu and Teetl’it njik;
- delisting the Wind River Trail under the Highways Act;
- designating off-road vehicle management areas through regulation; and
- developing a plan review process and timeline.