A woodland caribou bull. THE CANADIAN PRESS/ HO- CPAWS - Mike Bedell

Cariboo First Nations group calls for moratorium on caribou hunt

Southern Dakelh Nation Alliance wants action ahead of May 25 hunt lottery deadline

First Nations groups in the Cariboo are calling for a moratorium on caribou hunting ahead of the limited entry hunt lottery application deadline, scheduled for the end of the month.

On Monday, the Southern Dakelh Nation Alliance, which comprises Lhoosk’uz Dené Nation (Kluskus), Lhtako Dené Nation (Red Bluff), Nazko First Nation and Ulkatcho Nation (Anahim Lake), released a statement calling for the British Columbia government to put in place an immediate moratorium in the Cariboo region.

The hunt lottery would allow for up to 38 caribou hunting licences in the Itcha Ilgachuz region. The season opens Sept. 10 and closes Oct. 15, 2018.

The government’s most recent monitoring of woodland caribou populations do indicate that herds in B.C. are in decline, according to the province’s website. The Ministry says a census in 2015 estimated the population of the Itcha Ilgachuz herd at 1,500 animals.

The Ministry says a follow-up census is planned for June 2018.

The province is currently conducting public engagement in relation to a Caribou Recovery Program, which they hope will protect and increase caribou populations in B.C. in the long term, while also protecting their habitat. The program would be jointly run by the Ministry of Forests, Lands, Natural Resources Operations and Rural Development (FLNRORD) and the Ministry of Environment and Climate Change Strategy. Feedback is being accepted until June 15, 2018.

The draft discussion paper for the program proposes “closer relationships with First Nations that reflect the government’s commitment to the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.”

But the Southern Dakelh Nation Alliance is hoping for immediate action from the government.

“Enough is enough,” says Chief Betty Cahoose of Ulkatcho Nation.

“Caribou are an integral and irreplaceable part of our people’s diet, culture and way of life. Due to the declining population levels, many of our members refuse to harvest caribou over concerns of further threatening populations – this is unacceptable as it is our aboriginal right to harvest caribou for food, social and ceremonial purposes.”

The Southern Dakelh Nation Alliance press release says caribou have seen decline due to overhunting, timber harvesting, the mountain pine beetle epidemic and wildfires.

“Every year we see our herds’ population levels spiraling. If we don’t act now we will lose these herds forever,” adds Chief Stuart Alec of Nazko First Nation.

“Species throughout the Province are suffering at the hands of the governments’ failure to act – we are determined to take care of the caribou in our territories as they have been integral to our peoples since time immemorial.”

The Southern Dakelh Nation Alliance indicates in its press release that it is working with government on developing strategies for caribou management. However, the statement says: “While this vital work is ongoing, action must be taken to curb the immediate threat to dwindling caribou populations.”

When contacted for comment, the Ministry of Forests, Lands, Natural Resource Operations and Rural Development released a statement saying: “Ministry staff regularly consult and engage with First Nations on hunting regulations. The concerns and recommendations from the Southern Dakelh Nation Alliance in the May 14 letter are new to the ministry. The ministry is taking the concerns in the letter seriously and considering next steps.”

Feedback can be provided on the province’s Draft Caribou Recovery Program at https://engage.gov.bc.ca/caribou/.

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