Consultation on hunting changes botched: environmental group
Public input on proposed changes to grizzly bear and wolf hunting regulations closed Jan. 31, but the Pacific Wild environmental group says the province botched its consultations.
If approved, the changes would see a tripling of the number limited entry hunting permits issued for grizzly bears near Deadwood Lake and the Yukon border. Also proposed is the removal of a closed season and implementation of unlimited bag limits on wolves in portions of the North and South Peace.
Pacific Wild opposes the changes, which it said would "significantly escalate the trophy hunt of bears and wolves."
Pacific Wild says several people told them they were unable to submit feedback to the government due to a technical glitch.
The proposed regulation changes were originally posted on the Ministry of Forests Lands and Natural Resource Operations' (FLNRO) website with a close date for comments of Dec. 31.
Due to widespread technical difficulties, the proposals were re-opened for feedback on Jan. 8 with a deadline of Jan. 31.
"During the initial consultation period, Pacific Wild was contacted by dozens of individuals who found the site difficult to use or were unable to open new accounts," the group said.
One B.C. resident, Joan Hendrick, who learned of the opportunity to provide feedback via Pacific Wild's Facebook page, said she tried repeatedly to enter her comments but was unable to.
"When people like Joan kept contacting us, we followed up with Fish and Wildlife," said Ian McAllister, executive director of Pacific Wild. "The representative could not explain the technical issues, told us that in lieu of submissions through the website they would recognize email submissions that met a number of criteria, not listed anywhere on their website."
McAllister added that as a small non-profit, Pacific Wild appreciates the challenges and costs of doing online public engagement, but said the government is not a small non-profit and it was "simply unacceptable that the Ministry would knowingly run back-to-back consultation on a matter of such acute public interest on such a faulty website."
Pacific Wild has written an open letter to FLNRO minister Steve Thomson outlining its concerns.
The ministry in charge says it was aware of some glitches in the online system, but adds that they were fixed.
"We did receive 3,500 comments from residents on the two proposals Pacific Wild has expressed concern over," Greig Bethel, public affairs officer with the ministry wrote in an email.
Now that the consultation process has closed, the ministry says it anticipates a decision within the next two months. Any changes would be implemented for hunting and trapping regulations that will be in effect from 2016 to 2018.
Andy Waddell, president of the Dawson Creek Sportsman's Club, told the Alaska Highway News that he supports both proposals.
Members of his club often hunt in the area where an increased number of permits for grizzly bears are being proposed.
"What other predator is there that takes down a grizzly bear?" he asked.
Waddell says he believes the population numbers for grizzly bears in that area, boundary 7-52 near the Liard River, are high enough to support an increase in the number of permits.
The success rate of the limited entry hunt of grizzly bears in the proposed area is also so low that increasing the number of permits the government gives out would be justified, he said.
A limited entry hunt means that participants have to enter a draw to get a permit. That means that not all who enter the draw will get a permit and it also means that not all who get a permit will get a kill, Waddell noted.
He also supported removing the closed season and bag limits imposed on wolves in selected areas of the North and South Peace.
As a rancher and a hunter, Waddell said this issue was of particular interest.
"(Wolf) numbers are stronger and they're killing our calf crop," he said.