The Peel Watershed, a vast territory bordering the Arctic Circle in Canada’s Yukon province, has been called one of the last remaining untouched wilderness areas in the world. It’s the size of Ireland and the provincial government wants to open up large portions of the 26,000 square mile territory to mining.
The debate to develop the Peel Watershed has reopened old wounds between Native Canadians, called the First Nations people, and the Canadian government over the issue of land rights.
For decades, the First Nations people wanted to keep their ancestral lands intact. But they eventually compromised. After seven years, a land planning commission came up with a proposal that was supported by conservationists and - reluctantly - the First Nations People.
Earlier this year, the land planning commission proposed making up to 20 percent of the Peel Watershed available for mining and saving 80 percent for conservation.
But the Yukon provincial government wanted to open up as much as 70 percent of the land to mining and leave 30 percent for conservation.
In July, First Nations and conservationists took the government to court. They claim the government’s plan violated land treaties.
Just this week, Canadian courts struck down the Yukon government’s plan.
Now, 20 percent of the Peel Watershed will be open to mining. But even that is too much for many of the First Nations’ people who say the roads that will come with development will forever taint this untouched territory.
Fusion visited the Yukon to speak with conservationists and the First Nations people who want to save the Peel Watershed from development, and the politicians who say opening up the watershed to mining will bring jobs to the region.
Producer/Camera/Writer: Rayner Ramirez
Editor: William Gallego
Correspondent: Nico Ibarguen
Nicolás Ibargüen is an environmentalist and director of the Planet Initiative of the Americas Business Council Foundation, an organization that supports innovative social and environmental impact projects.
He is the environmental Correspondent for Fusion and Univision.
Nicolás organizes expeditions and events with world leaders to raise awareness about our relationship with the planet. He produced the award-winning documentary “Amazon Gold” and he is a board member of NRDC’s Voces Verdes and the Humane Society International. He was the Editor and Publisher of Poder Magazine.