Members of the Peel Youth Alliance (PYA, a group of young Yukoners) are celebrating “a crucial victory” by announcing the Yukon Government has agreed to extend a controversial mining staking ban in the Peel Watershed.
Earlier this month, the group launched a petition demanding an extension of the ban that was set to expire on September 4, 2012. The government announcement means mining companies will not be permitted to enter the Watershed, home to four First Nations communities, as well as several unique ecosystems, to claim land for future mining.
The PYA had originally planned on delivering more than 5000 signatures by pounding fake mining stakes representing petition signatures into the property of the Yukon Legislature to pressure the government to act. Just hours before the planned petition delivery, the government announced that the staking ban would be extended until May, 2013.
Protection of the watershed has been a major issue of public concern for several years in the Yukon. However, attention has focused on the development of a land use plan that would protect certain areas and would open other areas up for mining and development. One month ago, the PYA realized that the staking ban was set to expire, possibly complicating any attempts to protect the watershed, and they set their sights on saving it and keeping the mining companies out.
The Peel Watershed is a wilderness area, the size of Scotland, and the traditional homeland for four First Nations communities. According to the PYA, seven years ago the Yukon Government created a land use commission to balance mining development with wilderness protection in the Peel; however, a plan has yet to be finalized or implemented. If the ban on the staking of mining claims in the Peel Watershed had expired on September 4, mining companies would have had full access to stake claims in the watershed.
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