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Conservation groups issue warning at Vancouver mining trade show


At the annual Mineral Exploration Roundup tradeshow running January 18th to 21st in Vancouver, conservation groups expect the Yukon’s Chamber of Mines and government representatives to tell miners that the Territory is open for business. But these groups, the Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society’s Yukon chapter (CPAWS Yukon) and the Yukon Conservation Society, are warning industry to stay out of one of the Yukon’s most celebrated boreal wilderness areas – the 68,000km2 Peel River watershed.

In December 2009, the Peel Watershed Land Use Planning Commission recommended protecting 80 percent of this pristine area, which is home to barren-ground, mountain and woodland caribou and myriad other wildlife species. The commission has recommended a moratorium on staking in the Peel Watershed until the plan is finalized, but the Yukon government has not yet said whether it will comply. Since the commission began planning, more than 8,000 new claims have been staked in the Peel watershed. 

The Peel watershed, immortalized in a 2005 book called Three Rivers – the Yukon’s Great Boreal Wilderness, is known to have mineral potential. However the area is also an international destination for ecotourism, contains one of the most ecologically-rich intact boreal ecosystems remaining on Earth, and is of great spiritual and harvesting importance to local First Nations. Local First Nations want 100 per cent of the watershed protected, and a recent poll shows that the majority of the Yukon public want most of the Peel protected from development. 

“We’re calling upon the mineral exploration industry to be good corporate citizens and respect the planning process that is mandated under First Nations land claims agreements. Please refrain from further staking in the Peel until the final plan for the region is complete,” says CPAWS Yukon Executive Director Mike Dehn.

Yukon Conservation Society Executive Director Karen Baltgailis says: “There are plenty of other areas that are open for mining under the Yukon’s free entry system. Claims can be staked on nearly 80 percent of the Territory’s land base. Staking claims where a land use planning commission is recommending a protected area would clearly be nuisance staking.”

The Yukon’s Peel River Watershed is one of the last vast intact natural areas in North America. Located at the northern tip of the Yellowstone to Yukon wildlife corridor, the watershed is home to species that are rare or threatened elsewhere, including caribou, grizzly, wolverine, pine marten and peregrine falcon. The Peel area is also an internationally-renowned wilderness tourism destination, and an ancient cultural landscape that serves as a principle fish and wildlife harvesting area for First Nations.

The CPAWS Yukon chapter and the Yukon Conservation Society have been working for nearly 10 years to conserve the Peel watershed. 

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For more information contact:

Karen Baltgailis
Executive Director
Yukon Conservation Society
(867) 668-5678

Mike Dehn
Executive Director
CPAWS Yukon
(867) 393-8080