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?Esdilagh First Nation bans moose hunt in its traditional territory

Community located between Williams Lake and Quesnel says moose are too vulnerable to hunt after wildfires.
?Esdilagh First Nation in the Cariboo-Chilcotin has declared a ban on the moose hunt, saying there are many new roads and access to sensitive moose habitat as a result of 2017 firefighting. Angie Mindus photo

Another First Nation community in the Cariboo Chilcotin has declared a ban on moose hunting within its traditional territory.

The ?Esdilagh (Alexandria) First Nation located along the Fraser River between Williams Lake and Quesnel, announced Monday they made the decision following a community meeting held Oct. 5.

“The community discussed this season’s wildfires, the effects it has had so far within their traditional territory and the devastating impact it will have on moose,” stated a press release from ?Esdilagh. “Moose populations in ?Esdilagh’s territory are already at an unprecedented low level, and as a result of the 2017 firefighting, there are many new roads and access to sensitive moose habitat.”

Their community was closest to the Tautri Complex fire which later merged to become part of the Plateau fire — the largest fire in B.C.’s history.

?Esdilagh is one of six Tsilhqot’in Nation communities represented by the Tsilqot’in National Government (TNG).

This season, TNG chair Joe Alphonse has called for a moose hunting ban in areas impacted by the wildfires and urged his community members not to hunt as well.

Since then the Ministry of Forests has stopped the hunt in Zones A and C of Management Unit (MU) 5-13 effective Oct. 15 to Oct. 31 and Nov. 1 to Nov. 15.

The ban was imposed a week after the Province announced the use of all motor vehicles for the purpose of licensed hunting was prohibited within the Chilcotin Plateau and Hanceville-Riske Creek fires, except on designated highways and mainline forestry roads.

Now Chief Roy Stump is looking to the province for the same support, saying Zone B of MU 5-13 and MU 5-14 were also heavily impacted by the wildfires yet the Province has left these area open to Limited Entry Hunts for moose.

“We are willing to forego our Aboriginal rights to hunt moose and we expect the Province to rescind the remaining 2017 Limited Entry Hunt authorizations for conservation purposes,” Stump said in the press release. “We also expect B.C. to commit substantial resources to work with us to protect and conserve the moose population.”

?Esdilagh will commence discussions with conservation officers to develop a collaborative approach to help ensure the public respects the ban, the community stated.

On Monday, TNG communications manager Graham Gillies told the Tribune Xeni Gwet’in (Nemiah) First Nation is planning to announce moose and mule deer doe hunting bans for all peoples in the Xeni Gwet’in caretaker area effective until May 31, 2018.

Xeni Gwet’tin title land rangers are still on the land through the season urging hunters to comply with these policies, he added.

When the Province imposes hunting bans, First Nations are excluded because of their consitutional right to harvest for food, social or ceremonial purposes and when exercising this Aboriginal right to harvest, they are not bound by licensed hunting regulations, a Ministry of Forests spokesperson told the Tribune previously, noting Aboriginal harvest can be restricted for reasons of conservation or to protect human health or safety only.

We are still waiting for response from the Province on the legalities of the moose hunt ban declared by ?Esdilagh and from Chief Roy Stump.