Area hunters say they are going to keep the provincial government in their sights until it backs down on planned changes to the way big-game hunting permits are issued.
That was the main message from BC Wildlife Federation (BCWF) director Alan Martin at the Terrace Rod and Gun Club here during an informational meeting on the new regulations, first announced in December and set to be legislated in the coming months.
The changes, affecting the hunt of moose, grizzly bears, big horn sheep and other restricted animals, would increase the percentage of permits allocated to guide outfitters and their out-of-province clients and decrease the amount of permits allocated to resident hunters.
Resident hunters would still receive a higher percentage of the draw – depending on the region and the animal, anywhere from 60 to 80 per cent.
But resident hunters are saying it is the highest percentage allocated to guide outfitters anywhere in North America and the BCWF has been leading the charge against the changes by organizing petitions, rallies, and town hall sessions like the one here Jan. 18 across the province.
For Mike Langegger, the area’s BCWF representative who organized the session at the Terrace Rod and Gun Club and an earlier session in Kitimat, the shift in allocation is an insult to resident hunters.
“It’s viewed as taking a common property, a wildlife resource, and moving towards privatization of a portion of that wildlife,” said Langegger. “Our hunting season brings family and friends together, it’s a high value socially, it’s really the fostering and nurturing of friendship and family bonds through our hunting opportunities which will now be less. It’s also a key thing as a means of providing healthy organic food.”
That point was echoed by Chris Schooner, from the Terrace Rod and Gun Club, who said he doesn’t hunt himself but is concerned for families who rely on hunting for sustenance. In his opinion, there is more to be gained economically by supporting local, resident hunters, than the guide outfitting industry.
The Guide Outfitter Association of B.C. (GOABC) has challenged a number of the BCWF’s points, saying in a release Jan. 23 that the guide outfitting industry is a major contributor to rural economies, bringing in “high value” tourists, with the average guided client spending $27,000 on their hunting expedition, and that the new allocation policy makes B.C.’s resident hunter to guided outfitter split comparable to neighbouring jurisdictions.
GOABC also notes that the split mainly applies to limited entry hunt (LEH) areas, and that there are many general open season (GOS) hunting opportunities around the province.
But Langegger says that when you take away LEH opportunities from resident hunters around the province, it forces resident hunters to travel sometimes long distances to get to a GOS area away from their local area and that those GOS areas could potentially become overcrowded and over utilized, leading to more restrictions.
“A good example of that is we’ve had a GOS season in Skeena North, which is up in the Dease Lake, Stikine, Klappan area and that was typically an eight-week season, and that’s now been shortened down to four weeks and there’s some rumblings about high resident hunter use and that possibly going into limited entry in the future,” he said.
Earlier this month, energy and mines minister Bill Bennett, Kootenay MLA, indicated that the government had made a mistake with the changes and that they needed to review the decision. However, hunting allocations actually fall under forestry minister Steve Thomson’s portfolio, and in an interview on CBC Radio’s Early Edition Jan. 22 Thomson stood by the changes in general, saying that he believed the new splits were fair and balanced. He did note that some specific feedback received on changes to sheep season in region 4 – Kootenay – was being reviewed.