Topics of Interest

Two groups at odds in determining the fate of the bears

By: George T. Baker

The Daily News
Prince Rupert

February 18, 2010

A local notice in the newspaper placed by the BC Wildlife Federation may have broken what little potential there was for an agreement between B.C.’s Coastal First Nations and the BCWF.

The notice questions First Nations in Prince Rupert on whether they are aware of representation on their behalf by an ad hoc group named Coastal First Nations, a body that is advocating for the end of trophy hunting of bears on the coast.

Art Sterrit, head of Coastal First Nations, told the Daily News – after seeing the open letter for the first time – that this would be likely to severe any relationship developed between First Nations and the BCWF.

“We thought we were coming to an understanding and eventually an agreement over sustenance hunting with the BCWF. So, now I find out they have tried to undermine the political autonomy of First Nations along the coast. It won’t be tolerated – though I am not surprised,” said Sterrit.

In the BCWF notice, which is signed by BCWF president Mel Arnold, questions are raised over who appointed the group and what gave them the right to represent the communities. They also wanted to know if local First Nations have been properly consulted by the CFN, and whether CFN had the right to restrict future generations of First Nations from hunting.

“Ordinarily we would not get involved in the business of First Nations people or their relationships with the BC Government; however in this case an effort is being made by the consortium to virtually eliminate residents’ long and established cultural right to hunt.”

The intent of the letter, said BCWF Skeena regional representative Ken Franzen, is to fight fire with fire.

A massive ad was purchased in the Vancouver Sun signed by an international network consisting of First Nations, conservation, animal protection and tourism groups – representing more than 15 million members and constituents from over 40 countries – calling on the government to ban the trophy hunt for ethical, cultural, conservation and economic
reasons.

The campaign – which includes the Coastal Bear Viewing Association, Pacific Wild and the Humane Society of B.C. – is hoping that world attention on the Olympic Winter Games in Vancouver will result in eyes turned towards their cause.

“We have no choice but to respond,” commented Franzen. “We have hunted bears for a long time in this country and its not like we have a conservation concern. That would be different.”

Sterrit, however, is not amused.

“Our attempts at a relationship with the BCWF are finished,” proclaimed Sterrit.

“[First Nations] teach our children not to make fun of animals  – we teach them that.”

Open Letter to all British Columbia MLAs

BC Wildlife Federation
Unit 101 – 3060 Norland Avenue

Burnaby, BC V5B 3A6

February 19, 2010

Open Letter to all British Columbia MLAs:

Recently representatives for BC Wildlife Federation (BCWF) met collectively with Ministers George Abbott, Barry Penner and Bill Bennett. BCWF had submitted a brief for their review which highlighted our members’ concerns with regard to the direction this government is taking generally in resolving many First Nations issues. This letter is a summary of those concerns and expresses the need for more balance in adjusting First Nations’ demands to the needs of all other citizens of the province.

We also appeal to you personally to become informed of matters that are now of critical importance to many British Columbians.

The courts, in a general fashion, usually accompanied by directions to negotiate balanced solutions, are defining aboriginal rights. These decisions are then loosely interpreted by the government and increasingly being applied to Crown Lands across the province. We should note, however, that these decisions are usually applied away from the eyes of the urban media.

It appears to BC Wildlife Federation that aboriginal rights only come from court decisions which may be the explanation why First Nations are constantly using the litigation option. Our government, on the other hand, seems to shun initiating this course of action. We fail to understand this apprehension on the part of government in light of the fact that most court decisions clarify First Nations rights and also for the most part, recognize and provide protection for the rights of all Canadians.

Access to lands and resources is becoming increasingly difficult for industry and the citizens of the province. For industry, it appears a patchwork has emerged of putting investment into resources where First Nations are favoured at a price. There is no faith in policies seen as constantly evolving and applied on a piecemeal basis. For the average citizen, there are no options. They have no input to the negotiations so that government understands their values; they have no funds to compensate First Nations for access to recreate and they have no ability

to suggest compatible solutions to complex issues of land and resource use.

In all of these scenarios, the average citizen of the province is excluded and, because of the “Lets Make a Deal” mindset, solutions are imposed that have no chance of benefiting the province or, sadly, First Nations.

We would remind all that the premise government put on the requirement for treaty negotiations was to develop and create “certainty.” The facts are that certainty on aboriginal rights comes only from court decisions. The current government course provides no certainty for either party and promotes a never-ending negotiations process even after final agreements are signed.

For government, reconciliation agreements are being struck that transfer shared decision making and revenues directly to First Nations. These revenues are part and parcel of the social fabric of the province. They pay for health programs, educational programs, highway building and other functions of government. We urge you to understand and determine the increasing long-term impacts that the loss of these revenues will have on the maintenance and support of the programs on which all British Columbians depend sustainability is critical for the future of our province. To what extent is the authority of the Crown being compromised in shared decision making agreements? Does “shared decision making” now confer a high level of recognition which invites conflict if not clarification in a high level legal challenge? Our legal advice is that the “shared decision” process in fact provides a veto for First Nations on any proposal to utilize public natural resources.

Indeed, is the province not avoiding resolution of provincial jurisdiction over public lands and resources by failing to get on with its appeal of the William decision?

Ultimately, as an elected MLA, you are part of government, accountable to your constituents and their questions and must be answerable not just to those constituents but to future generations of British Columbians.

In terms of the direction this government is taking regarding dialogue with First Nations for protocols, agreements and treaties, any opportunity for public involvement has been scrapped subsequent to the 2002 referendum. The development of government to government negotiations has unfortunately distanced the public who pay for all this process. We urge you to question the wisdom of supporting this exercise in alienation, not just in terms of individual political ends, but rather as a matter of conscience in being responsible for the social landscape

and future opportunities for all British Columbians.

We request you consider and appreciate that all sectors and citizens of this province deserve the same level of consultation as is currently given to First Nations surrounding land use decisions. We further request you actively bring suggestions forward with your colleagues in government that can include the public in some meaningful way in the development of agreements with First Nations.

Specifically, with respect to land use, BCWF is keenly interested in the decision making process that impacts our members’ access to fish and wildlife resources. The management of these resources has been traditionally based on science. Increasingly, it appears decisions are being made on political grounds that would give in to demands by First Nations for exclusive opportunities. Complaints by First Nations of infringement, not of any right but on an ability to harvest, seemingly need no basis in data or fact. Evidence of not harvesting sufficient to their

(First Nations’) needs doesn’t appear necessary for our Ministry to propose restrictions on residents completely devoid of conservation reasoning. We urge you to consider the risks to our fish and wildlife resource if management decisions are made for reasons of appeasing groups rather than on a scientific basis. We respectfully request your support when we bring these inconsistencies forward to our appropriate Ministers.

In closing, we wish to remind you that BC Wildlife Federation currently represents and enjoys the support of over 37,000 members throughout the province. These members are citizens who are outdoors people who recreate, hunt and fish often as family units. We draw to your attention that recreational fishing in this province generates in excess of $1.5 Billion for our economy each year. Angling also generates 17,400 jobs in this province every year. Hunting generates something in the order of another $500 Million and upwards of another 2,000 jobs.

Recreational angling in this province generates annually $115 Million to the provincial treasury and a further $170 Million to the federal treasury. Hunting contributes an additional $40 Million provincially and $50+ Million federally.

Access to lands and our fish and wildlife resources is important to these citizens as are all public resources to other British Columbians.

We respectfully urge you to consider the points we have raised here. The future of all British Columbians is very much a vision that must be analyzed by you personally in terms of a balance that assures ample opportunities for all.

Yours in conservation,

Mel Arnold, President

BC Wildlife Federation

GOABC Blames RAHPF

The Resident Angler and Hunter Preservation Fund has purportedly been blamed for the cancellation of the Special Premier’s Permits for Roosevelt Elk and sheep.

Not true!

In March of 2009, Greg Sawchuck, BC Wildlife Federation (BCWF) Representative on the Special Premier’s Permits Committee received an email from the Director of Fish & Wildlife requesting the BCWF position on the following options. The three-year contract for the Special Premier’s Permits is up and the contract needs to be renewed to continue.

1)   Disconnecting the Roosevelt Elk Permit

2)   Continuing with a resident only Roosevelt Elk Permit

3)   Continuing with a resident only Mountain Sheep Permit

4)   Continuing with the non resident auctioned Mtn Sheep Permit

The BCWF President requested the BCWF Allocation Committee provide recommendations to the BCWF Board of Directors (BOD). It was the Allocation Committee’s understanding that the GOABC did not support the Premier’s Roosevelt Elk Permit.

The BCWF Allocation committee recommended that a resolution be drafted and presented on the floor of the BCWF annual general meeting in Fernie in April, 2009. The following resolution was put forward and passed by the delegates at the BCWF AGM:

PREMIER’S SPECIAL SHEEP & ROOSEVELT ELK PERMITS

WHEREAS the BC Wildlife Federation reluctantly gave support for the BC Premier Sheep and Roosevelt Elk Permits, and

WHEREAS the BC Wildlife Federation gave support to these permits as long as they occurred in areas where hunting for these species occurred, and

WHEREAS there are now proposals to have areas which are currently closed, opened strictly for the Premier’s Permits for special trophy opportunities, a condition the membership did not support, and

WHEREAS there are problems with the Premier’s Sheep and Roosevelt Elk Permits including delivery and revenue, and

WHEREAS the three year contract for the Premier’s Sheep and Roosevelt Elk Permits is coming to an end, and

THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED that the membership of the BC Wildlife Federation withdraw their support for the BC Premier’s Special Sheep and Roosevelt Elk Permits if the present direction and policy are changed from the original direction and stipulations, and

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that the BC Wildlife Federation inform the Ministry of Environment that the BC Wildlife Federation membership will not support changes to the direction or policy of the BC Premier’s Permits.

SUBMITTED BY:

BC Wildlife Federation Wildlife Allocation Committee

Passed by BC Wildlife Federation Board of Directors, Dec 17, 2008

DISPOSITION:

Amended_____          Passed_____          Defeated_____

Withdrawn_____          Deferred_____

SUPPORTING BRIEF:

The BC Wildlife Federation gave their support for the Premier’s Special Permits based on a fixed set of criteria. The Permits have not been providing an exceptional amount of revenue in comparison to other permits that are auctioned from other jurisdictions. Now other options are being considered for the Premier’s permits which are not supported by the BCWF Board of Directors or the BCWF Wildlife Allocation Committee. These are in opposition to the direction provided by the BCWF membership.

The BC Wildlife Federation has always valued the public ownership of wildlife in B.C. It would be beneficial to withdraw support for these permits to emphasize this important value.

As you can see, with legitimate reasoning, the delegates at the 2009 BCWF AGM voted against any change in the direction and policy related to the Premier’s Special Permits. The RAHPF, which hadn’t even been formed at that point, had nothing to do with the vote at the AGM. It was a government decision to cancel the permit, so one must assume that the Ministry of Environment was not happy with the status quo and wants to change the direction or policy of the Premier’s Special Permits. We also know that GOABC withdrew their support for the Roosevelt Elk Premier’s permit, so we have to assume that influenced the MoE’s decision. Neither the BCWF not the RAHPF can accept responsibility for the government decision—government had the option of keeping things they way they were.

The RAHPF does support the direction that the membership provided at the 2009 BCWF AGM.

Clearing Up the Confusion—Resident Angler and Hunter Preservation Fund FAQ

What is the BCWF Political Action Alliance (PAA) and is the PAA associated with the BC Wildlife Federation?

The BCWF Political Action Alliance (PAA) is a society registered under the Societies Act of BC and is not in any way directly associated with or part of the BC Wildlife Federation.  It has its own constitution, its own directors and its own mandate as registered with the Registrar.

The BCWF Political Action Alliance currently has two funds in place.

One fund was created by Gary Mauser specifically to support the passing of Bill C-391 with a goal to promote the elimination of the long-gun registry.

The other, and more recent fund is the Resident Angler and Hunter Preservation Fund (RAHPF).

What is the BCWF Resident Angler and Hunter Preservation Fund?

The BC Resident Angler and Hunter Preservation Fund is a voluntary fund created to actively protect, promote and enhance the interests of British Columbia resident hunters and anglers.

The BC Resident Angler and Hunter Preservation Fund was formed by a group of BC Wildlife Federation members who were frustrated by the lack of progress in restoring resident priority in the provincial allocation policy and the continuing loss of resident angling and hunting opportunity in the province.

Is the Resident Angler and Hunter Preservation Fund associated with the BCWF’s Legal Defence Fund?

The RAHPF was established with the intent of working for resident priority and is not associated with, nor does it have the same mandate as the BCWF’s Legal Defence Fund.

Does the British Columbia Wildlife Federation have any knowledge of the Resident Angler and Hunter Preservation Fund (RAHPF)?

Yes, the RAHPF was discussed and endorsed by the BCWF members present at the 2009 AGM in Fernie. However, no endorsement by the BCWF was required to proceed with the creation of the fund. Individual members and club representatives made significant donations to the fund right on the floor of the convention.

Does the British Columbia Wildlife Federation have access to the funds in the Resident Angler and Hunter Preservation Fund?

No, the BCWF does not have access to the RAHPF monies. All of the funds used by the RAHPF are from donations made directly to the BCWF PAA for the purposes stated on its website (http://residentpriority.ca/) and none of the funds have come from the BC Wildlife Federation. Only the directors of the BCWF Political Action Alliance manage the fund.

Did the BC Wildlife Federation approve the advertisement that was placed by the BCWF Political Action Alliance?

The directors of the BCWF Political Action Alliance approved the advertisement placed in local papers around the province in late 2009. Neither the executive nor the board of directors of the BC Wildlife Federation had any knowledge or part in the approval of the ad prior to its publication.

How much money did the BC Wildlife Federation spend on this ad?

The BC Wildlife Federation spent no money on the ad that was run by the BCWF PAA.

Are the claims in the advertisement legitimate?

The Allocation Policy was agreed to in 2006 but since then the GOABC has requested the policy be delayed or re-opened.   There was a transition period in the originally agreed to policy through 2012 that was to allow guide-outfitters to transition to the new policy. GOABC has requested that the Allocation Policy implementation be delayed until 2017 and has also requested the Allocation Policy be re-opened.

Since the new Allocation Policy took effect, in Region 7A guide-outfitters have lobbied to reduce or remove the calf general open season, reduce or eliminate cow harvest and eliminate or at the very least make the immature bull moose an allocated hunt all to increase quality of product.  Prior to the Allocation Policy guide-outfitters in 7A harvested close to 1100 cow moose from 1980-2007, which is about 7% of the cow harvest.  Through the new policy the guide-outfitter share was reduced to 2%. But probably because these hunts are becoming harder to sell, even with the reduced numbers available, there is now a push to reduce or completely eliminate the cow harvest which would greatly impact resident opportunity, but have little effect on the bottom line of commercial operators.

Also, by making immature bull moose an allocated hunt the total resident share of the bull harvest will be reduced from about 92% to 75% increasing guide-outfitter share from 8% to 25%.  What this means to resident hunters is either the spike-fork season or the LEH hunt will be greatly reduced or eliminated.

GOABC has also requested all resident sheep hunting be placed on LEH or to have Guide-outfitters quota completely removed.  This was the system in place until the 1970s and resulted in huge conservation concerns and in resident sheep hunters being placed on LEH in some areas despite only harvesting 15% of the sheep prior to that.

These are but a few of the issues that are being pushed behind closed doors without your knowledge.

The GOABC has also produced an economic viability paper that they have used to lobby government to make changes to hunting regulations that will support their industry at the expense of resident hunter opportunity. All the contents of the ad you have mentioned, directly reference statements contained in this viability paper.

BCWF: Open Letter to First Nations People living on the North & Central Coast

February 11, 2010

It has been brought to the attention of BC Wildlife Federation that a number of Coastal First Nation Bands have formed a consortium going by the name of “Coastal First Nations”. See www.coastalfirstnations.ca for more information. Does this Coastal First Nations group represent all First Nations members along the entire Coast? Ordinarily we would not get involved in the business of First Nations people or their relationship with the BC Government; however in this case an effort is being made by the consortium to virtually eliminate residents’ long and established cultural right to hunt.

It is troubling to us that after speaking to numerous First Nations people living in Prince Rupert, no one was aware of the consortium or their efforts to end bear hunting on the North and Central Coast. In addition, none of the First Nations people we spoke with were opposed to bear hunting if it is done in a sustainable manner. In fact, some of the people we spoke with either hunted bears or had a family member who hunted bears.

The intent of this letter is to encourage you to ask a number of questions.

Have you been properly consulted by those who claim to represent your interest? It is our belief that First Nations people living on the North and Central Coast hunted bears traditionally for food, clothing and tool-making material. What right do those who claim to represent you have to restrict future generations of First Nations people from hunting bear?

Residents in British Columbia and Canada have a long history of hunting and trapping for fur and for meat. It is a part of our heritage and our culture stemming back to the early days of the Hudson’s Bay Company and before.

For the benefit of those that don’t know, we wish to explain how the Ministry of Environment establishes the annual allowable harvest of bears and how the hunts are managed.

The Ministry of Environment conducts random surveys along with identifying the different types of habitats available for bears. A population is established for each bear population area. There is a harvest percentage provided for each population unit. Hunting only occurs where the population can sustain a harvest over time. Hunting for bears can occur in either the spring or fall. Black bears are estimated at 120,000 to 160,000 animals in the province. White or blue coloured phases of black bears are not hunted.

Grizzly bears, because of their population numbers (approximately 16,000), are only hunted through Limited Entry Hunting for residents or quota system for non-residents. The current licensed harvest rate is approximately 2% of the population. Natural population recruitment is typically 6% – 8%.

There is a scientific, peer reviewed, Grizzly Bear Harvest Management Policy that guides all grizzly bear hunting opportunity. This strategy was developed by independent scientists not working for the Ministry. It has many special safeguards including vast no hunting areas to ensure that grizzly bears will not be over hunted as conservation is always the first priority.

It has been expressed by the “Coastal First Nations” consortium that they have an interest in pursuing commercialized bear viewing. Members of BC Wildlife Federation have concerns about this unregulated activity. We believe that all wild animals should remain wild and not become habituated or dependant on humans to live. Habituation means that an animal loses its instinct to avoid humans and no longer acts in a natural way or looses its ability to forage naturally. We have always commented that commercial bear viewing can occur but should not cause the habituation of any animals. The habituation of bears leads to their inevitable demise. For example, a habituated bear who wanders into a schoolyard because it has become accustomed to human interaction, or looks for easy food, becomes a public safety issue and will be destroyed and disposed of at the expense of the taxpayers of this province.

BCWF looks for positive solutions where there is a tolerance for each other’s views and opportunities. All hunters need to respect each other’s needs and continue to promote sustainable hunting. Commercial bear viewing needs to be properly regulated to avoid habituation and conflict with others. Those who choose not to hunt need to respect the cultural and traditional importance to those who do.

Yours in conservation,

Mel Arnold, President
BC Wildlife Federation
Unit 101 – 3060 Norland Avenue
Burnaby, BC V5B 3A6
Telephone: 604-291-9990 Fax: 604-291-9933
Toll Free: 1-888-881 BCWF (2293)
officeinfo@bcwf.bc.ca www.bcwf.bc.ca