By Carole Rooney
100 Mile House Free Press
The BC Wildlife Federation (BCWF) launched its new Resident Priority Program (RPP) in July to strengthen its ongoing efforts to ensure British Columbia’s natural resources are managed in the public interest.
The BCWF states this move is in response to mounting concerns about B.C. resident’s access to hunting, angling, and outdoor recreation opportunities that are being “slowly eroded in favour of private interests.”
BCWF Cariboo-Chilcotin member Floyd Lee helped organize a rally in 100 Mile House in February after the province gave some hunting allocations back to B.C. guide-outfitters last December.
Lee says he believes the RPP will be welcomed and supported by outdoorsmen province-wide, as thousands are unhappy with the direction government is going in “catering” to non-resident hunters.
“Resident hunter opportunity has been eroding for years; Region 5-Cariboo is one of the more severely impacted regions.
“The recent BC Wildlife Allocation Policy (WAP) is unacceptable and has betrayed thousands of resident hunter/constituents.”
The public rallies, protests, petitions and letter-writing campaigns against the Wildlife Allocation Policy were ignored by Premier Christy Clark, he adds.
“There has been too much wildlife management with political motives and a lack of science-based management. We need the resident priority program to help restore and ensure public access to fish and wildlife resources and prevent the privatization of a public resource.”
B.C. Conservative Leader Dan Brooks has spoken out strongly in the past about the importance of giving a higher priority to resident hunters, although he is not directly involved with the RPP.
There are two issues likely at the head of the BCWF’s RPP issue, and he supports both campaigns, he explains.
“They have lost some tags, and they are 4,500 tags away from where they want to be … so it’s a big deal.”
Brooks adds the other prong of the issue is access to public lands.
“[The BC Liberals] have not supported trying to get public land accessible for hunters – that has been gated by private citizens, and they have not supported wildlife allocation with resident priority in mind.”
He says the BC NDP don’t represent resident hunters’ interests in the legislature, either.
For the most part, Cariboo-Chilcotin area guide-outfitter Stuart Maitland says the guide-outfitters don’t have a problem with the status quo.
“We agree with resident priority, but in percentage only. We agree that residents have the highest priority, but also that [First Nations] have first rights.”
What he wants to stop is the many attempts to strip other rights from guides, such as the “hardship rule” for limiting share reductions.
In the fixed species animal allocations, Region 5 now has roughly 2,000 moose harvestable, of which 60 per cent goes to First Nations, and of the remaining 800 moose, 75 per cent goes to resident hunters and 25 per cent goes to guides – but only in their own territory, he notes.
Maitland explains about 30 per cent of Region 5 is not in a guide area, so after First Nations, residents qualify for 100 per cent of those moose.
“We actually get only 9.9 per cent, not 25 per cent.
“When the first allocations came out [in 2009], we actually lost 128 moose between all the guides, that’s what all the fuss was about from us.”