As noted in our inaugural bulletin, in December of 2009 the Peel Watershed Planning Commission released its final Recommended Land Use Plan (LUP) for the 68,000 square kilometre area of north eastern Yukon known as the Peel Watershed Planning Region. The LUP designates less than 20% of the lands as Integrated Management Area (which lands qualify for more intensive development) and over 80% of the lands as Special Management Areas (which receive a higher degree of protection, including protection from mineral staking and other industrial development).

Reaction to the plan has been sharply divided. The Yukon Chamber of Mines has strongly criticized it, while conservation and tourism industry groups have welcomed it. The Peel River drains into the Mackenzie River, and has been described as the last part of the Gwich’in people’s land that has remained pure and undisturbed.

On July 23, 2010, the parties to the planning process (i.e., the Yukon government and four First Nations governments) announced that the LUP will undergo two months of public consultation. The parties have previously announced that they will deliver their response to the proposed LUP in December of this year.

The government of Yukon has issued a one-year interim withdrawal order from mineral staking to all Crown Land, Category B settlement lands and fee simple lands in the Peel Watershed Region. The withdrawal order is effective until February 4, 2011. The withdrawal order applies to the issuance of new sub-surface rights only; the government of Yukon has indicated that it will continue to facilitate regulatory approvals for surface activities required to access and explore existing mineral claims.

Just recently, public hearing began to take place, with the most recent in Inuvik, NWT and Whitehorse. The Yukon government is looking to work with the Gwich’in Tribal Council and a number of Yukon First Nations as part of the consultation process.