Earlier this month the BC government gave British Columbia’s 100,000+ hunters a rather astonishing Christmas present.
On December 10th, the Minister of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations announced his decision concerning how hunting licenses would be allocated between industry and British Columbia’s resident hunters. In what ended up being a surprise to many people – and in stark contrast to the advice he received from his own staff – the Minister chose to increase the proportion of hunting licenses that would be available for the guide outfitting industry at the expense of resident BC hunters. For many BC hunters, this was like adding salt to an existing wound. Over the last decade there had already been a steady erosion of their allocation relative to industry’s.
I sincerely hope that the government reconsiders this decision as in my view it’s not in the public interest.
The allocation of hunting permits between industry and residents involves an extensive consultation process between the Guide Outfitting Industry (represented by the Guide Outfitters Association of BC, — GOABC), resident BC hunters (represented by the BC Wildlife Federation —BCWF) and the provincial government. The purpose of this process is to ensure that all interests are represented in a consistent, fair and transparent way. Ministry staff subsequently take recommendations to the Minster on how permits should be allocated sustainably, with a priority placed on meeting the social and ceremonial needs of First Nations while also maintaining healthy wildlife populations.
This time the allocation process seemed to take on a life of its own. Rather than accepting the permit allocation recommendations as in the past, a very different set of numbers were provided in the Minister’s decision. No one I have spoken to has any idea where these numbers came from. Certainly they did not come from the allocation process or expert advice.
Figure: British Columbia’s eight hunting regions (left) and a table (right) showing the recommended allocations as well as the Minister’s final decision.
Contrary to the established Harvest Allocation Policy and the consultation process that developed it, this new decision allocates a large increase in the proportion of licenses available to industry at the expense of resident hunters. In addition, the Harvest Allocation Policy specifically states:
Many of the changes in the table above can hardly be described as gradual. And it’s certainly not clear to me that resident hunters were a treated as a priority in light of the fact that these numbers differed so much from those recommended through the consultation process.
So why is this important?
This is yet another example of government putting the needs of special interests ahead of British Columbians. Hunting is an important part of life for many British Columbians; for quite a few, hunting provides an important source of protein for their families. In addition, resident hunters working under the umbrella of the BCWF have a rich history of conservation. And the BCWF cites a twenty percent growth in the number of BC hunters over the past 10 years.
This is not the first time that I have raised a question about how the Guide Outfitting industry is being regulated by this government. This past spring legislation was introduced that removed the requirement that a guide outfit could only be owned by a citizen of of our province. In my view, hunting priorities in British Columbia should be focused on ensuring healthy wildlife populations and meeting the needs of British Columbians. They should not have these priorities trumped by corporate interests especially now that can also be foreign-owned.
I have raised similar concerns in the past about the Grizzly Bear Trophy hunt. Unlike the Black Bear hunt, where hunters are required to “remove from the carcass the edible portions of the four quarters and loins to the person’s normal dwelling place or to a meat cutter or the owner or operator of a cold storage plant“, there is no such requirement in the case of Grizzlies. Most British Columbians, including the hunters I have spoken with, are not supportive of the trophy kill. Even the simple requirement of forcing hunters to remove all edible portions from grizzlies, as in the case for black bears, would be a step in the right direction.
In his June 2014 mandate letter, the Minister of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations was directed to “continue to work with BC Guides and Outfitters and other back country operators to ensure continued access and business certainty to Crown land and provide economic and tourism opportunities in rural British Columbia.” What’s clearly missing from this mandate is the requirement that this not be done at the expense of British Columbians.
If you are as concerned about this development as I am, please take the time to write to your MLA and the Minister. You might also consider signing the petition that has been put together by the BC Wildlife Federation and/or a similar petition at change.org.