Peel watershed: Yukon court strikes down government land use plan (CBC News North – December 01, 2014)

‘A great victory for First Nations, environmental organizations, and all Yukoners,’ says Thomas Berger

In a historic ruling this morning, Yukon Supreme Court Justice Ron Veale found that the Yukon government’s modifications to the Peel land use plan did not respect the land use planning process set out in the territory’s final agreements with First Nations.

In a written judgment, he says the remedy is for the Yukon government to return to consultations on the final recommended land use plan. The decision also scolds the Yukon government for pursuing a “flawed process” for two years, instead of revealing more detail about its proposed modifications in February 2011.

“I think it’s a total victory,” says Jeff Langlois, who represented the Northwest Territories’ Gwich’in Tribal Council, an intervener in the case. “It’s what Tom Berger was seeking entirely.”

Langlois says the ruling essentially orders the Yukon government to return to the final plan as recommended by the planning commission, and make modifications from there.

“I still don’t understand in this case whether Yukon still has the ability to reject that final recommended plan but if they do not, and that was certainly an argument Tom Berger made, then I believe the land use plan for the Peel is going to closely resemble the final recommended plan.”

In a statement, Thomas Berger called the judgment “remarkable.”

“The Umbrella Final Agreement provides for a unique, community-based, collaborative land use planning process,” he said.

“The vindication of this process is a great victory for the First Nations, the environmental organizations, and all Yukoners. In the end, one of the world’s last great wilderness areas will be protected.”

The Yukon government issued a statement saying it “will carefully review today’s decision before determining how to move forward and will assess implications of the judgment on land use planning and the economic future in Yukon.”

In 2011, the Peel Watershed Planning Commission released its final land use plan for the 67,000 square kilometres of wilderness in northern Yukon. The plan, created over five years at a cost of $1.6 million, called for up to 80 per cent of the watershed to be withdrawn from any industrial development, including mineral staking.​

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