Close to 300 participants took part in the BC Liberals’ virtual roundtable on hunting Wednesday night - attendees mostly from the Island, Kootenays, and Northern B.C. formed the discussion with many questioning how the Province can make any decision on hunting regulations that aren’t science-based.
“This looks like it’s going to be our largest (attended) Zoom roundtable we’ve ever held, which just shows you how important this issue is,” said Peace River South MLA Mike Bernier in his opening remarks. “I’ve received over a thousand emails and not just from the Peace Region. This is a provincial issue. People are frustrated with the approach that this government has taken or the lack of understanding that it has on the importance for all of us.”
“I’ve surpassed the 2000 mark in emails on this topic,” chimed in North Peace MLA Dan Davies. “…and that doesn’t include phone calls, Facebook messages and everything else. This is personal. Show us the science, show us the evidence,” the tone of the calls his office has received in recent weeks.
Earlier in the day, Davies presented a petition in the provincial legislature on behalf of the BC Wildlife Federation.
“I believe there are more letters coming, again, to the Premier saying you need to do a pause on this. This is going to have a negative impact on all British Columbians.”
The province has proposed regulation changes to the moose harvest for local resident hunters, which would be cut by as much as 50% in the Peace-Liard River region, and has also proposed that caribou hunting be closed across the Northeast region for all licensed hunters.
According to the provincial government, the proposed changes will help Treaty 8 First Nations continue their way of life, and to address a BC Supreme Court ruling last year on the cumulative impacts of development of treaty rights in the region.
“I’ve been hunting that area for decades. The moose population is doing fine. The caribou population is doing fine,” said Port Alberni’s Matt Stabler on the first video call of the night. “This is simply a trade-off of our hunting privileges so that development can continue and environmental degradation and destruction will be accelerated.”
“That was the main thrust of that court case. Period. There’s no other way to read it,” added Stabler. “This is a direct trade-off of our privileges.”
Morgan Husereau from the Peace region settlement of Fort Ware identified himself as a hunting guide during the roundtable.
“If this goes through, in its current form, it’s going to put a nail in the coffin for the guide outfitting industry,” argued Husereau. “We already lost the grizzly bear hunt with no science-based study behind that. We’ve lost our caribou hunt. If this goes through, we’ll go from 16 moose to six moose. There’s no viable way to operate a business with those numbers.”
The province says the hunting changes are expected to be a "two-year interim measure" and "part of a broader package of actions specific to improving wildlife stewardship, upholding Treaty rights, and habitat conservation and the future of resource management."
Nechako Lakes MLA John Rustad, the Liberal critic for Forests, Lands, and Natural Resource Operations, chaired the 90-minute virtual forum.
“I think there’s room in British Columbia for good science-based wildlife management. Opportunities for resident hunters. Opportunities for guide outfitters…and certainly, the ability to be able to meet our obligations under the constitution for First Nations,” he said in response to Husereau's comments.
Stewart Fraser, a guide outfitter from the Quesnel area is lobbying for changes to the current framework and is looking for certainty.
"The director of wildlife has discretionary authority on the annual allowable harvest, the LEH numbers (limited entry numbers) and guide quota and allocations," emphasizes Fraser. "We want this to go back to region. We need it to go back to our regional managers and our regional biologists. It's been six years that we have not had our allocations in December. We get them as late as July, even as late as August 29 with seasons being closed and quotas being taken away."
Les Husband, a past president with the BC Wildlife Federation, is also looking for answers from the Horgan government on the reasoning behind its latest decision, worried that changes to regulations in 7B (Northeast) will have a domino effect and a dire warning.
“If this goes through, Region 6 (Skeena) won’t be far behind and we will not have an open moose season in this province. That will shift to other species which could be devastating for those who like to get out to hunt...and fish.”
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