Written by Ned Morgan.
“Refugium” is a term for an unaltered ecosystem that can maintain large and diverse populations of native species rare or in flux elsewhere. Yukon’s Peel watershed has served as a massive refugium since the last Ice Age, and is one of only a handful left intact in North America.
Even if the Peel River watershed seems distant to most of Canada’s population – no doubt many have never heard of it – its importance cannot be overstated. In a time of abundant media coverage on more “must save” areas than anyone can keep up with, the Peel stands out.
The 68,000 square-km wilderness (93 percent of which is Crown Land) is largely pristine, and home to stable populations of threatened species including grizzly bear, mountain caribou, and peregrine falcon. The eight wild rivers of the Peel comprise a paddling destination of growing global renown.
Last month, Yukon Supreme Court Justice Ron Veale ruled that the Yukon government’s amendments to the Peel watershed land-use plan did not respect the process outlined in the territory’s prior agreements with First Nations.
In a rebuke to the right-leaning Yukon government, the court ruled the former had acted in a manner “inconsistent with the honour and integrity of the Crown.” Conservationists see the ruling as a major victory and hopefully a guarantee that the region will not be opened up to industrial development.
Last week, the Yukon government filed an appeal against the ruling. “We decided to appeal this because we believe that public governments must have the final say about what happens on public land,” Yukon’s minister of Energy, Mines and Resources Scott Kent told the CBC.
The public, however, has already spoken: A Datapath survey found that 78 percent of Yukoners favour permanent protection for the Peel Watershed.
So why should all Canadians demand protection for the Peel? Here are eight reasons – one for every major river in the watershed:
Whitewater like this.
Campsites like this.
Falcon’s-eye views like this.
Mountain trekking like this.
Chill-zones like this.
Fly-fishing with David Suzuki.
Migrations like this.
Water like this.
Learn how you can support the Peel Watershed here.