Wildlife harvest allocation fair to all hunters

After more than 10 years of review and negotiations, it’s time to put the issue of wildlife harvest allocation behind us

After more than 10 years of review and negotiations, it’s time to put the issue of wildlife harvest allocation (WAP) behind us and have some certainty.

At the end of the day, all stakeholders 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 18 months of intensive negotiations to determine how to allocate the 7,500 big-game animals affected by allocation.

Under the decision, an estimated 60 animals have been moved to guide-outfitter hunts. Regardless of this decision, resident hunters will continue to harvest about 92% of the 48,000 big game animals taken annually by hunters.

Many popular species are not affected, 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 B.C. families’ lives and I am committed to keeping it this way. 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 implemented by our government.

The WAP decision also reflects this commitment – resident hunters continue to have priority over non-resident hunters. Resident hunters make an important contribution toward the provincial economy 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 B.C. residents and families. Out-of-province guide-outfitter clients are some of the highest-spending tourists per capita in B.C.

I am also committed to maintaining the viability of the guide-outfitter industry, and to do that this allocation decision was required.

That said, I am sensitive to concerns of resident hunters. It was for this reason I revisited my December 2014 determination and found strategic ways to reduce the transfer of animals from 110 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 WAP decision meets this intent, and will ensure the $350 million that hunting brings to B.C. (from both guides and residents) continues to be viable for years to come.

I am hopeful resident hunters and guide outfitters can work together with government to support these goals, which are supported by all hunters.

*Steve Thomson is the Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations minister.