Loud call by hunters for better shot at big game

Rally draws close to 200 people in support of resident hunters

Local hunters had the provincial government’s Wildlife Allocation Policy (WAP) in their crosshairs at a rally outside Cariboo-Chilcotin MLA Donna Barnett’s office in 100 Mile House on Feb. 28.

Close to 200 people, many dressed warmly in plaid and camouflage, packed part of the Pinkney Complex parking lot while enduring a biting wind and calling for more hunting opportunities for residents of British Columbia.

Speakers questioned the motives of B.C. Liberal Premier Christy Clark, claiming the provincial government wants to privatize big game hunting by giving an uneven share of hunting opportunities to the guide-outfitting industry.

Resident hunters argue the amendments to the WAP made in December 2014 gave foreign hunters and guide-outfitters too large a portion of big game hunting permits.

The figures announced by the Ministry of Forest, Lands and Natural Resource Operations (MFLNRO) back in December ranged in splits from 80-20 and 60-40 per cent.

While still in favour of resident hunters, the resident hunters’ split was much less than what was expected by groups like the B.C. Wildlife Federation, which represents thousands of hunters and anglers in the province.

Following a significant backlash, Clark’s government revised in some regions some hunting allocation splits in February. None of those revisions affected the splits in the Cariboo region.

While it’s a complicated issue, it is clear the policy is mostly leaving both sides – guide-outfitters and resident hunters – unhappy with the current deal.

Local resident Floyd Lee, one of the event’s organizers, says he thought the rally was successful in getting their point across.

“Our message is that we want a fair allocation policy. We want to have an allocation policy that’s on par with the other jurisdictions in North America, which is between five and 10 per cent of the wildlife allocation [set aside for guide-outfitters and foreign hunters].

“And we want to see the possibility of having the foreign people also on limited entry hunting [LEH], where they have to apply for draws. [We want] an equal playing field.”

Lee says the goal is to obtain 90 per cent of the allocation quota for resident hunters.

The rally saw a number of speakers in favour of that, including the MLA for Surrey-Newton, Harry Bains, the NDP’s (FLNRO spokesperson.

“All the people of British Columbia are saying is that B.C.’s natural resources should be used for the benefits, first and foremost, of British Columbians.”

Jim Glaicar, representing the Spruce City Wildlife Association in Prince George, also spoke passionately in favour of resident hunters. He spoke about his children shooting their first animals, adding that with the current allocation policy, hunters are potentially looking at a 10- to 12-year wait on LEH draws.

“That means my 12-year-old daughter will probably not be able to hunt moose with me in my back yard.”

He adds resident hunters need to continue to fight for what they want in a respectable way.

“We will win this fight in the end. We have no choice. This is our way of life.”

Near the end of the hour-long rally, which started at 11 a.m., a guide-outfitter from Clinton asked to address the majority pro-resident hunter crowd.

Bruce Ambler’s request was turned down by one of the rally’s organizers.

Speaking with reporters after the fact, Ambler says much of the information being presented about outfitters getting a generous stake is “totally false.”

He says the truth is that outfitters have taken a significant loss since previous allocation changes were made eight years ago.

Outfitters lost 30 per cent of their quotas in 2007, and they’re only getting back 3.5 per cent of that with the most recent changes, says Ambler, one of the close to 240 licensed guide-outfitters in the province.

“There hasn’t been a big increase to the guide industry, as we’re hearing today, and what most of the residents believe. It’s just false information.

“I figured they would have allowed me to speak. I think the majority of the public here would have wanted to hear what I wanted to say.”

Non-resident hunters wishing to hunt big game in the province must be accompanied by a registered guide-outfitter or accompanied by a resident that holds a special permit. Conservation requirements and First Nations harvest opportunities take precedence over allocations for resident and non-resident hunters.

Barnett, a member of Clark’s B.C. Liberal government, briefly addressed the crowd. She talked about hearing loud and clear what the hunters had to say, adding she would take their message to Victoria.

Barnett also spoke about conservation, noting the declining number of big game animals in the wild has a lot to do with the allocation uproar.

“We need to get our wildlife populations up. We have to work together and look at the bigger picture.”