Moose can been seen from the air during a Conservation Officer Service enhanced enforcement air patrol in 2018 west of Williams Lake. (Angie Mindus file photo - Williams Lake Tribune)

Moose can been seen from the air during a Conservation Officer Service enhanced enforcement air patrol in 2018 west of Williams Lake. (Angie Mindus file photo - Williams Lake Tribune)

First Nations want to be involved in aerial moose counts: NStQ

“If the LEH tags are based off these numbers then we need the information.”

Northern Secwepemc leaders want their organizations to be a part of the 2021 aerial moose surveys.

The Northern Secwepemc Tribal Council (NStQ) noted they were denied that right by the provincial government, who determined due to the pandemic they would not allow First Nations to take part in the helicopter surveys this year, which are underway.

“We’re tired of being stepped over,” said Kate Hewitt, a natural resources manager with the NStQ.

Hewitt said the survey data helps inform the Limited-Entry Hunting (LEH) and Guide Outfitters (GO) licenses and certificates and that the Northern Secwepemc rely on the data collected during aerial surveys to establish strategies and programs that will aid in conservation and stewardship measures. The information can also be used to acquire more funding to pay for long-term protection of the resources within the traditional territories.

“If the LEH tags are based off these numbers then we need the information.”

The NStC news release noted the Northern Secwepemc communities understand the severity of the pandemic and are in full-support of restrictive procedures that ensure the health and safety of the public, however, they believe there are other ways to make accommodations for the communities to participate such as the federal Department of Fisheries and Oceans has done.

First Nations representatives have been included in past aerial wildlife surveys, which collects important data on wildlife population demographics and/or population estimates.

The B.C. Ministry of Forests, Lands, Natural Resource Operations and Rural Development said staff are not flying with anyone else right now including contractors, volunteers, university graduate students, First Nations representatives, or staff from other ministries.

“Ministry staff would seek opportunities to involve First Nations representatives on aerial wildlife survey flights – as they have done for many years – if there wasn’t a global pandemic occurring and corresponding safety protocols were not in place,” a spokesperson said.

Depending on available funding, a few Cariboo Region areas are selected for aerial surveys each winter.

The surveys’ frequency depends on development pressures, disturbance resulting from human activities, and identified wildlife management needs. External effects from events such as wildfires are also considered.

Aerial wildlife surveys this year are anticipated to be completed in March.

Read More: Cariboo Chilcotin schools seek to recreate sense of belonging in classrooms

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