After more than 10 years of review and negotiations, it’s time to put the issue of wildlife-harvest allocation behind us and have some certainty, says Kelowna-Mission MLA Steve Thomson.
Thomson, B.C.’s Minister of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations, released a statement Friday outling how all the stakeholders in the hunting allocation dispute matching resident hunters against guide-outfitters and non-resident hunters want the same thing— healthy wildlife populations that can be sustainably used by all groups.
“Obviously the issue is contentious, with a middle ground that was hard to find. If it weren’t, it wouldn’t have taken a marathon 18 months of intensive negotiations to determine how to allocate the 7,500 big-game animals affected by allocation,” Thomson said.
“Under the decision, an estimated 60 total animals have been moved to guide-outfitter hunts. Regardless of this decision, resident hunters will continue to harvest about 92% of the approximately 48,000 big game animals taken annually by hunters.
Thomson said many popular big-game species are not affected at all, including mule deer, white-tailed deer, most Rocky Mountain elk populations and black bear. This is because allocation is required only for species in areas that cannot be managed solely by general open season and only in the parts of British Columbia covered by guiding territories.
“Hunting and fishing are key parts of many British Columbian families’ lives and I am committed to keeping it this way. In fact, the increase in resident hunters from 82,000 10 years ago to over 102,000 today is in part because of resident hunter recruitment and retention strategies introduced and implemented by our government,” Thomson said.
“The decision on wildlife-harvest allocation also reflects this commitment. Under the decision, resident hunters continue to be recognized as having priority over non-resident hunters. Resident hunters make an important contribution toward the economy in this province by pursuing their passion for hunting and fishing, and it is anticipated this will continue. They also make large and ongoing contributions to wildlife stewardship.
“The guide-outfitter industry also plays a valuable role, encouraging tourism and providing income for British Columbia residents and families. Out-of-province guide-outfitter clients are some of the highest-spending tourists per capita in British Columbia. I am also committed to maintaining the viability of the guide-outfitter industry, and to do that this allocation decision was required.”
That said, Thomson explained that he was also sensitive to concerns of resident hunters. “It was for this reason that I revisited my December 2014 determination and found strategic ways to reduce the transfer of animals from 110 down to 60. Guide outfitters were not happy about this shift, but I felt it was important to balance the priority of resident harvest with the need of business certainty for guides.
“Government’s intent is for a consistent and transparent policy that is fair to all wildlife user groups, where conservation comes first, First Nations’ needs are met, and resident hunters receive priority allocation. The harvest allocation decision meets this intent, and will ensure that the $350 million that hunting brings to the B.C. economy (from both guides and residents) continues to be viable for years to come.”