Efforts to protect moose in the Cariboo Chilcotin were the focus of a roundtable meeting held in Williams Lake this week that Tsilhqot’in National Government Tribal Chair Joe Alphonse said was long overdue.
“One of the biggest things I took away from the meeting was that a number of moose are dying of starvation,” he told the Tribune.
The second biggest thing he discovered, he said, was that everyone at the table had a lot more in common than being divided on the issue.
“Unless we sit down and meet, we don’t know that.”
Earlier this fall under Alphonse’s leadership, some cattle guards were removed in the Chilcotin to protest the annual LEH moose hunt.
“We got the government’s attention and agreed to back down, but one of the things we insisted on when we signed our Moose Co-Management Agreement was the need to have round table discussions with as many interest groups as possible,” Alphonse said.
Doug Donaldson, Minister of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations and Rural Development, was unable to attend the meeting held on Tuesday, Dec. 4, but noted in a press release the ministry looks forward to future round table meetings with First Nations partners and other stakeholders to help improve the resiliency of the landscape and help moose numbers recover.
“Moose are an essential part of the way of life for many people who live in the region,” Donaldson said.
“Unfortunately, their habitat has been affected by pine beetle, the recent wildfires and a variety of land management activities. These events and other factors are affecting the abundance and distribution of moose and other species.”
Scott Fraser, Minister of Indigenous Relations and Reconciliation, attended the meeting and said “we came together to show our shared commitment to caring for a species that makes up a critical part of the ecosystem and the lives of many people in the Cariboo-Chilcotin.”
Fraser said they can all work together to manage risks to ensure healthy moose populations for generations to come.
“Drawing on the diverse and extensive experience and knowledge around the table, constructive conversations were held that he hoped will lay the foundation for lasting solutions,” Fraser said in the press release.
Alphonse said they talked about the need to revamp moose management plans and hunting regulations.
“When they drafted up the Cariboo Chilcotin Land Use Plan, that was almost 30 years ago,” he said.
“There’s been some major changes since then. We had the beetle epidemic, major logging and the Plateau and Hanceville fires in 2017 that changed whole landscapes. Every time there are major alterations to the land, it is necessary to stop, recollect and make adjustments to management plans. Not doing that is irresponsible.”
Other groups represented at the meeting were the Williams Lake Indian Band, Southern Dakelh and St’at’imc Nations and respective communities, the office of the Chief Forester, BC Timber Sales, BC Cattlemen’s Association, BC Trappers Association, BC Wildlife Federation, Guide Outfitters Association of BC, Wildlife Stewardship Council, Tsi Del Del Enterprises Ltd. and West Fraser Mills Ltd.