The government of British Columbia has abandoned science-based wildlife with its decision to curtail hunting in the Peace-Liard region under the guise of reconciliation, says the BC Wildlife Federation in a Friday press release.
Caribou hunting will be banned and moose hunting severely curtailed over roughly 22 per cent of the province under new regulations released this week.
What the government press release omits is that BC has also negotiated a deal that will see 195 forestry, oil and gas projects proceed in the traditional territory of the Blueberry River First Nation. Another 20 industrial projects in Blueberry territory are still up for negotiation.
The new regulation is a direct response to last year’s Yahey v British Columbia decision by the BC Supreme Court, which ruled that the Treaty 8 rights of the Blueberry First Nation had been infringed by the cumulative impacts of industrial development.
“The government has allowed Treaty 8 territories to be damaged by industrial development, but rather than address that problem, BC has opted to imposed hunting regulations that have no basis in science,” said BC Wildlife Federation Executive Director Jesse Zeman.
The most sweeping changes to the regulation affect areas of the province that are essentially untouched by civilization.
The Muskwa-Kechika management area is 17,000 square kilometres with virtually no road access and none of the cumulative effects of industry that the province is bound by the court to address.
“The province has made sweeping changes in these areas with no scientific rationale for doing so,” said Zeman. “BC employs dozens of ecologists and wildlife managers, but completely ignores them.”
The BC Wildlife Federation has consistently supported science-based conservation and recovery programs for caribou and moose. For years both Treaty 8 Nations and the BCWF have pushed the provincial government to focus on wildlife management and habitat restoration in the region.
All that effort appears to have been wasted.
“If the government is willing to ignore the science, all our efforts in conservation are doomed,” he said.
BCWF fully supports the rights of First Nations to hunt and fish in their traditional territories for food, social and ceremonial purposes.
The court found that the Blueberry River First Nation’s treaty rights to hunt, trap and fish in their territory have been breached “by allowing industrial development in Blueberry’s territory at an extensive scale.”
“The provincial government’s regulation changes do nothing to address the impacts of industrial activity faced by Treaty 8 First Nations,” said Zeman.