A land of rugged mountains, pure rivers, boreal forests and arctic tundra in northern Yukon. CPAWS is working alongside First Nations and the Yukon Conservation Society to protect one of largest unspoiled natural areas in North America.
Visit www.protectpeel.ca for full information about the Peel and our campaign to protect it.
The story of the Peel case was captured in a beautiful gallery on the Guardian website. Click here to view.
From its dramatic peaks and high plateaus to its sprawling river valleys and wetlands, the Peel is one of Canada’s natural wonders. The six crystal-clear rivers that flow into the Peel River – the Ogilvie, Blackstone, Hart, Wind, Bonnet Plume and Snake Rivers - are the lifeblood of this ecosystem. Four First Nations call the Peel home – the First Nation of Na-Cho Nyak Dun, Tr’ondëk Hwëch’in, Vuntut Gwitchin First Nation and Tetlit Gwich’in – and have for millennia hunted, fished and trapped in the Peel and received cultural nourishment from it.
With only limited human disturbance, the 68,000 square kilometres of vast wilderness burst with animal and plant life, from healthy populations of Canada’s iconic wildlife such as bears, wolves, lynx and caribou, to millions of boreal and migratory birds who thrive in the wetlands, to endemic plant species found nowhere else. Owing to its environmental significance, the Peel forms the northern anchor of the Yellowstone to Yukon wildlife corridor.
For years, the Peel has been coveted by industry and government for the mineral wealth that is believed to exist there - iron ore, lead-zinc, copper, nickel, and uranium – as well as coal, oil and gas. Plans to build roads, bridges and railroads into the Peel have threatened to carve up this in tact landscape. This has mobilized First Nations governments, environmental organizations, the Yukon public, hunters, tourism operators and many more groups to give the Peel the protection it deserves.
CPAWS Yukon, along with the Yukon Conservation Society, the First Nation of Na-Cho Nyak Dun, Tr’ondëk Hwëch’in and Vuntut Gwitchin First Nation have taken the Yukon Government to court over its betrayal of the constitutionally mandated land use planning process. Over the course of seven years the Peel Watershed Planning Commission developed a plan supported by the First Nations and the majority of the public that ultimately called for 80% of the region to be off limits to roads, mining and oil and gas development.
At the last minute, the government derailed the process, rejecting the plan in favour of its own unilateral plan to open 71% of the Peel to industrial development. Our legal case, which is represented by Thomas Berger Q.C., seeks to uphold the integrity of the First Nations Final Agreements and restore a plan that would have protected the ecological integrity of the Peel for today and future generations.
2004: The Peel Watershed Planning Commission was formed and the land use planning process for the Peel began, as set out in the Umbrella Final Agreement. The affected First Nations initially advocated for 100% protection.
2009: In the first Draft Land Use Plan, the commission zoned half of the Peel for industrial development. The majority of Yukoners expressed that the main priority of the plan should be environmental protection, so the Recommended Land Use Plan called for 80% protection.
2011: The Final Recommended Land Use Plan called for 55% permanent protection and 25% interim protection to be decided upon in future plan reviews, with 20% of the Peel to be open to roads and industrial development.
2012: The government released its own closed-door plans for the Peel that favoured extensive industrial development. In the final public consultation, 94% of the submissions support the Final Recommended Plan for 80% protection.
2014: Yukon Government rejected the Final Recommended Plan and adopted its own plan to open 71% of the Peel to roads and resource extraction. Yukon conservation groups and First Nations began their legal action.
2014: In December, Justice Veale of the Yukon Supreme Court ruled that the government violated its treaty obligations in the land use planning process. He quashed the government’s plan and sent the process back to the final round of consultation, preventing the government from altering the balance of conservation and development from the Final Recommended Plan.
2015: The Yukon Government appealed the decision to the Court of Appeals. In November, the court upheld the ruling that the Yukon Government acted dishonourably, but the court sent the consultation back to an earlier stage, opening the door for the government to push through its plan for extensive roads and mining in the Peel.
2016: The First Nations and conservation groups appealed the latest decision to the Supreme Court of Canada, and in June their application was granted, signifying that the Peel Watershed case is of national significance. The Supreme Court date is set for March 22, 2017 and the plaintiffs will argue that the ruling of Yukon Supreme Court should be restored.
2016: A territorial election took place in the Yukon and the incoming government promised to adopt the Final Recommended Plan for the Peel.
Watch a video of the Water Ceremony, which took place during the Court of Appeal hearing
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