Nobody happy

Resident hunters, guide outfitters want wildlife harvest, habitat changes

For the past decade, the provincial government, the British Columbia Wildlife Federation (BCWF) and the Guide Outfitters Association of B.C. (GOABC) have been trying to iron out a policy that would give certainty to how many big game animals resident hunters can harvest compared to how many non-resident hunters can harvest.

Non-resident hunters must hunt under a special permit with a guide outfitter, who is represented by GOABC. Resident hunters are represented by the BCWF.

For the past decade, GOABC and the BCWF have wrestled vigorously to try to gain more of the wildlife harvest allocation.

In 2007, the provincial government, resident hunter and guide outfitter representatives signed a wildlife allocation policy that first set out the big game harvesting priority order – conservation, First Nations, resident hunters and non-resident hunters.

Once animal conservation is satisfied, then First Nations has to be satisfied and then resident hunters and guide outfitters share the remaining allocation, with resident hunters getting priority over non-resident hunters.

Soon after the policy was signed, the economy went into a recessionary tail-spin, and guide outfitters’ clientele dropped off and they started filing hardship grievances because they weren’t able to harvest their use-it-or-lose quotas stipulated by the province.

During this period, moose populations started declining, which added to the problem – and the allocation goal posts started shifting on a regional management unit basis.

Tempers started to flare between GOABC and the BCWF over allocation issues, and eventually exploded in December 2014.

This when Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations Minister Steve Thomson announced he was moving some 168 big game permits out of the resident hunters’ limited entry hunt (LEH) areas and giving the permits to the guide-outfitter industry.

It infuriated resident hunters and the BCWF, and a letter-writing campaign to government and its MLAs began. Protest rallies popped up all over the province, including in 100 Mile House.

Eventually, Thomson limited the transfer to 60 animals to the guide outfitters, stating it was a done deal and he hoped the BCWF and GOABC could work together to support the government’s goals (see the Guest Shot on this page).

However, guide outfitters and resident hunters have turned their sights to the provincial government, and are demanding further negotiation and changes for the allocation system.

They also want changes in the LEH system and they want to work with the government to create healthy wildlife populations for the future.