The NDP’s proposed ban on all grizzly bear trophy hunting in B.C. will be divisive within the province and the opposition party ranks, predicts Forests Minister Steve Thomson.
NDP leader John Horgan announced Thursday that an NDP government would extend the grizzly bear trophy hunt being implemented in the Great Bear Rainforest region of the B.C. coast to the entire province.
“We can look after our natural environment, respect the outdoor traditions of our province and grow the economy if we make the right choices,” Horgan said. “That should start now with a change in how we treat the iconic grizzly bears of B.C.”
He was supported by Doug Neasloss, Chief Councillor of the Kitasoo/Xai’Xais, who said the Coastal First Nations declared a ban on all but traditional aboriginal bear hunting in their territory four years ago.
“Bear claws, hides and teeth are not trophies,” Neasloss said.
Thomson said the B.C. Liberal government is moving to retire guide-outfitter licenses in the Great Bear Rainforest as territories are sold to bear-watching companies. About a third of the province is off limits to grizzly hunting for wildlife management reasons.
But the rest is subject to a managed hunt for resident and non-resident guided hunters that has been been validated by independent experts and makes a significant contribution to the provincial economy, he said.
“It clearly will not resonate well in rural communities,” Thomson said. “We saw what happened last time the NDP did this. It caused very significant divisions within their party.
“There are indications that there still will be a hunt for sustenance or something, and I’m not sure how you manage that effectively, with a ban on grizzly bear hunting for resident hunters and guide-outfitters.”
In a report released in October, wildlife biologists from the University of Alberta and the University of Minnesota gave high marks to B.C.’s grizzly bear management, including the grizzly bear hunt lottery that attracts foreign hunters each year.
B.C. goes to the ballot box in May, 2017.