Commission Releases New Version of Dawson’s Land Use Plan

The latest version of Dawson’s Land Use Plan has been released.

It is an area the size of Switzerland with landscapes ranging from dredged ponds to pristine wilderness.

Yukon’s Dawson Planning Region will be jointly managed by the Yukon and Trʼondëk Hwëchʼin First Nation governments under a draft plan, released Wednesday after four years of work.

This would put more than a third of the region, or nearly 13,600 square kilometers, out of reach for new mining staking, although existing projects could continue. The plan indicates that these areas would receive the highest level of protection.

Most of the rest of the region is divided into « Integrated Stewardship Zones », which would provide varying levels of conservation.

The overall planning region covers 39,854 square kilometres, or approximately 10% of the Yukon, and is intended to balance the various interests in the territory. Values ​​vary from wetlands, cultural sites and caribou trampling areas to what lies beneath – valuable minerals tightly packed within the ore.

The plan, the full document of which is nearly 400 pages, is not a legal document and does not replace land law or First Nations land claims. The territory has also posted more simplified versions online.

Caribou needs a highlight, says conservationist

A Yukon environmentalist says the latest version of Dawson’s regional land use plan is a step in the right direction.

Sebastian Jones of the Yukon Conservation Society is cautiously optimistic, saying he thinks the commission has listened to Yukoners’ feedback.

Jones said proof of this was the removal of a corridor used by Fortymile caribou from quartz mining.

« It’s obvious the planning commission has thought deeply about the needs of the caribou, » he said.

However, he added, if it were up to him, the plan would have been more ambitious when it comes to protecting caribou habitat.

« But I have to be realistic, » he said. « I will definitely suggest that the recommended final plan be changed a bit and be a bit more ambitious. »

In the meantime, he said he was « as happy » as he « expected to be ».

He said that in some ways land use planning can « fail » when it comes to protecting certain areas because he said that instead of deciding what should be the « appropriate use “For a certain area, the planning commission assesses how current land use can be accommodated, and sometimes mining activity is prioritized.

« Typically, places set aside for conservation are very undeveloped areas, not necessarily because they have very high ecological value, » he said.

He said if the land was being protected because of its ecological value, then the Clear Creek area would have been set aside for conservation, « because it’s very important to the Clear Creek caribou herd. »

« But instead, » he said, « priority was given to … mining because that’s what’s happening in this area. »

Jones added that he thought it was « innovative and courageous » for the planning commission to identify wetlands in the planning region that should be designated as « particularly significant ».

But on the other hand, he said the lower Indian River wetland complex had been left out, « despite being very important ecologically ».

More consultations

Jerome McIntyre of the Yukon government said the government is launching new consultations, which are expected to last about two months.

« I’ve been a planner for a long time and I’ve never seen a plan that everyone agrees with, » McIntyre said.

But he said the milestone announced this week is an « important milestone. »

“Planning is not an easy exercise, obviously you have to consider a wide range of views from different interest groups,” McIntyre said.

« Balancing those interests is not an easy task. And, you know, it’s a citizen-led commission that does that. And that’s a huge commitment of their time to work on those things. »

Yukoners can submit comments on the recommended plan until Nov. 20.


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