Marten Berkman
Mining companies are leering over the Peel Watershed, the largest pristine wilderness in North America and a storehouse of coveted minerals and other resource deposits.

Battle Continues for Peel Watershed in Yukon Courtroom (Video)


Several First Nations and environmental groups are back in court this month to continue their fight to preserve the Peel Watershed in Canada’s Yukon Territory.

The First Nation of Nacho Nyak Dun, Tr’ondëk Hwëch’in, Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society Yukon Chapter (CPAWS Yukon) and the Yukon Conservation Society are pushing forward with the legal action they filed on January 27, 2014, represented by attorney Thomas Berger. They are calling on the government of Yukon to implement a land use plan to protect about 21,000 square miles of wilderness in the northern part of the territory from mining and other industrial development.

The Peel River Watershed lies at the northern end of the Rocky and Mackenzie mountain ranges and at 26,000 square miles is among North America’s largest intact ecosystems, the plaintiffs say. Though no plans have yet been filed, businesses are poised.

“Mining companies have several camps on the edge of the watershed, waiting for the green light from the Yukon’s government to rush in, clear roads and start digging,”  The Star reported in 2012.

The big-picture development plan approved by a six-member commission of the Yukon government in January 2014 is more expansive than one finalized in 2011 by the Peel Watershed Planning Commission, which was negotiated between First Nations and the territorial government under Yukon land claims treaty guidelines, according to National Geographic and Huffington Post.

“The government's decree stunned indigenous leaders, who support a 2011 plan developed under Yukon land claims treaties that would have maintained the wilderness character of 80 percent of the area, which is known as the Peel watershed region,” National Geographic reported last January. “The government's new plan all but reverses that figure, opening some 71 percent of the watershed to mining.”

As Huffington Post notes, “To put that in perspective, the entire province of New Brunswick is approximately 73,000 square km [28,000 square miles] in size.”

The legal case first went before Yukon Supreme Court from July 7 through 10, but in late August the judge directed that more time be allowed for further study of the complex issues involved. The new hearing will convene at 10 a.m. on October, the plaintiffs said in their statement.

RELATED: Video: Yukon's Peel Watershed Is Imperiled, and Here's Why You Should Care

Yukon First Nations Fight to Protect Peel River Watershed From Industrial Devastation

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