Changes coming to hunting allocations

Proposed changes could result in 5,000 fewer licenses says BCWF; Guide-outfitters disagree with number

  • Dec. 15, 2014 5:00 a.m.

CAROLYN GRANT

Changes to wildlife allocation policy for hunters and guide-outfitters in British Columbia are being considered, and the BC Wildlife Federation says that could result in 5,000 fewer permits available to resident hunters.

Each year, ministry biologists calculate an annual allowable harvest (AAH) for many wildlife populations in B.C. using conservation principles.

An established procedure is then used to split the AAH between resident hunters and guided non-resident hunters. These proportions are referred to as ‘the allocation’ and generally apply for five-year periods.

Among other things, the new policy would change the allocations for resident hunters and guide outfitters.

A press release put out by the BCWF claims that changes to wildlife allocations could result in 5,000 fewer hunting permits going to residents and increase the number of permits sold to foreign big game trophy hunters.

“Proposed changes to the Wildlife Allocation Policy are inconsistent with standard practices in other jurisdictions across Canada and in the United States,” said George Wilson, President of the B.C. Wildlife Federation, which represents 45,000 conservationists. “There is no justification for these changes and they are not supported by B.C.’s resident hunters.”

However, Scott Ellis from the Guide-Outfitters Assoc. says there is not a chance that the 5,000 number is anywhere close to accurate. First of all, he says, the split percentages apply only to Category A animals, for which hunters enter a draw for permits, not for species such as mule deer or elk where licenses are sold over the counter.

“When you look at the Kootenays, it’s not a significant swing,” he said. “We used to have regional allocations, which we have lost. In the Kootenays we estimated this to be about a $1 million loss. We are going to be experiencing some pain. To us, the new allocation policy will cost about 3 or 4 million province wide. The only relief is no restricted quotas anymore.”

But nonetheless the BC Guide-Outfitters Association supports the move to legislated, fixed shares of Category A (allocated animals).

“It is welcome by the guide outfitting industry, and is hoped to be the return of cooperation and partnership between the recreational resident hunter and guide outfitting community,” said the Association in a press release this week.

In its own press release, the BCWF said the following:

“Most jurisdictions across North America give foreign hunters 5-10 percent of the harvestable surplus of wildlife. The changes proposed would give foreign hunters up to 40 percent of specific game species such as mountain sheep, goat and bear, and up to 25 percent of moose and elk.”

Ellis of the Guide-Outfitters does see this as particularly advantageous to guide outfitters.

“I see pain on our side and resident license sales continuing to grow as we see more woman  and children starting to hunt,” Ellis said.

“Resident hunters firmly believe any policy changes should reflect the best interests of the majority of British Columbians who depend on hunting as a sustainable, healthy food source,” said Wilson. “Our organization is committed to working with the government to protect wildlife and ensure equitable distribution of this resource.”

“Moose is the most sought after species by B.C.’s resident hunters. In many areas, demand exceeds supply and hunters are placed on a Limited Entry Hunt (LEH) lottery to ensure sustainability. Approximately 70,000 BC hunters apply for 13,000 LEH permits each year, meaning only 1 in 5 hunters get to hunt moose annually. Foreign hunters do not need to apply for a LEH permit, and can hunt annually, taking moose from approximately 3,000 B.C. hunters each year. The proposed changes would see even more British Columbians go without an opportunity to hunt moose.”

“The LEH process does need to be fixed,” Ellis said. “But to say a few percentage points of change will have that direct effect on permits is incorrect.

“We recognize that there may be reductions in opportunities and revenue for the guide outfitting industry; we are committed to working with the government to mitigate those impacts. We are also committed to maintaining the guide outfitting tradition for many years to come, and working with our partners in conservation; First Nations, the BC Wildlife Federation and others who are committed to sustainable wildlife and the long term preservation of wildlife and wild places.”

The Bulletin/Townsman also asked our own fall/outdoors columnist F.J. Hurtak for his thoughts.

“The wildlife allocation issue and the controversy and politics behind it has been around for decades,” Hurtak said. “The government must decide what is fair and reasonable for ALL concerned, including the Guide-Outfitting Industry itself, but I firmly believe that what truly reflects the best interests of the resident hunter has to be placed at the forefront when, and if, any new legislation is formulated. There is no other province in Canada that I know of, that would do any different.”

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