In the following interview Mary talks about her relation to the region and explains the need for its protection.
Damien Tremblay : What is your personal experience in the Peel watershed ? What are your feelings about the area ?
Mary Walden : My interest in the Peel watershed goes back almost 20 years. I have canoed nearly all of the major rivers and explored parts of the region by dogteam in the winter. I have also travelled the Dempster Highway – a large part of which is in the Peel watershed. My feelings about it ? It’s the most beautiful, magical place I have ever experienced.
Damien Tremblay : Can you tell us about one of your favorite adventure ?
Mary Walden : Of course every trip in the Peel is a grand adventure, but if I had to pick a favourite it would be an exploratory trip on the Little Wind River in 2009 with my husband, Blaine. The river has seldom been paddled, it’s not in any guide book, and it’s the main geographical backdrop for the tragic legend of the Lost Patrol.
DT : Why should the Peel watershed be protected from industrial development ?
MW : Simply put, because it’s truly a global treasure. Wilderness the world over is fast disappearing. With the current staking and mining boom, wilderness in the Yukon is also under increasing pressure. We don’t have to trash every square inch of the territory. There is a rare opportunity to set the Peel aside – just one of the Yukon’s many regions - and we should take advantage of that before it’s too late.
DT : What are the threats on the area ?
MW : Primarily mineral exploration and mine development, oil/gas development, roads, railways and pipelines. Less than 10 years ago a company drew up plans for a steel-manufacturing complex/coal-fired generating plant on the Wind River. More recently uranium explorers scoured the region in search of the deadly mineral and pushed to build an airstrip and road.
DT : You co-own a wilderness tourism company offering canoe trips in the Peel watershed. Naysayers could say you have an economic interest in the protection of the Peel, explaining your efforts for its protection.
MW : Certainly I have come to know and love the Peel, thanks in part to running canoe trips on its rivers. But my desire to see the Peel protected, for all time, goes far and beyond any short-term economic benefits for the tourism industry. Let the naysayers nay!
Snake River, Peel Watershed, Yukon.
DT : In spring 2011, what’s the status of the Peel watershed question ?
MW : The Peel Watershed Planning Commission is working on a final recommended land use plan for the region. It expects to be finished by this summer. The public will then get a chance to review and comment on it before it goes back to the Yukon and First Nation governments – Na-cho Nyak Dun, Tr’ondek Hwech’in, Vuntut Gwitchin and Gwichin Tribal Council/Tetlit Gwichin Council – for final approval. If all goes according to the current timetable, a final plan could be approved by the end of the year.
DT : What can people do to help for the protection of the Peel?
DT: Thanks for keeping us updated on the question: http://peelwatershed.blogspot.com/
MW : Get rid of the current Yukon Party government. It has shown nothing but disdain for Peel protection and contempt for the democratic land use planning process. An election has to be called by Oct. 14, 2011. Do what you can to make the Peel an election issue and vote for a candidate/party that supports protection.