The B.C. government’s updated wildlife allocation policy is drawing the ire of the BC Wildlife Federation (BCWF) and local hunters while the Guide-Outfitters Association of B.C. (GOABC) is welcoming the changes.
The BCWF said the changes will dramatically reduce residents’ access to wild game and increase the number of permits sold to foreign big game trophy hunters.
“This will impact our local resident hunters in a huge way,” said Moe Monita, president of the Williams Lake Sportsmen’s Association. “I’ve done the calculations and it will mean a loss of 3,500 hunts for the province’s resident hunters.”
The Guide-Outfitters said legislating a fixed allocation of category A animals will mark the return of co-operation and partnership between the recreational resident hunter and guide outfitting community.
In announcing the policy, the Ministry of Forests, Lands and Natural Resources said a clear split for each harvest will result in less discretion in the hands of regional managers and more certainty for all user groups.
Specific numbers provided by the ministry show there will be Limited Entry Hunting authorization decreases for resident hunters in Region 5 as a result of the policy.
For 2015 the ministry predicted the number of grizzly bear LEH authorizations for resident hunters will drop from 138 to 114, with 24 going to guide-outfitters. For moose it will drop from 2,447 to 2,400, with 47 going to guide-outfitters and for mountain goat, the LEH authorizations for resident hunters will drop from 67 to 65.
The LEH reductions come in addition to the cuts that were put in place a few years ago because of the declining numbers of moose in the region, Monita said.
“This is unacceptable. There’s no doubt we will be writing to our MLA.”
However, Stuart Maitland of the Cariboo-Chilcotin Guide-Outfitters, who has guided in the region for 35 years, said in the past, resident hunters and outfitters in each region would meet and negotiate hunting splits.
“Then in 2006 the government came up with a policy because it was changing all the time and things were inconsistent,” Maitland said. “When the policy was implemented in 2007 it had devastating effects on the outfitters.”
Before the policy, guide-outfitters had 21 per cent of the available moose after conservation measures and First Nations allocation were determined.
“Guide-outfitters are last in priority,” Maitland said.
Under the new policy, the split will give outfitters in Region 5 25 per cent of the available moose and resident hunters 75 per cent, which will be closer to historical levels for guide-outfitters, Maitland said.
Local hunter Jeff Knox, however, said the policy changes will not be good for a region that’s already seen a steady decline in moose.
Knox was hunting out west this fall for 10 days and did not get a moose.
“We saw one bull and 10 cows and a couple pairs of calves,” Knox said.
And the tag draw odds worsen every year for resident hunters, he added.
“I have friends who have put in a moose draw for 17 years and have never pulled a tag. So then you have to go up north to go moose hunting, but you’re just adding to the problem there.”
Critical of government’s argument that guide outfitting is a huge generator of tourism dollars into the B.C. economy, Knox said there are 102,000 resident hunters in B.C. spending lots of money to hunt each year.
The Williams Lake Sportsmen’s Association alone has roughly 1,000 members, Monita said.