Editor’s note: This story has been updates with a response from the ministry
The Tŝilhqot’in Nation is asking moose hunters from across B.C. to stay away from the Chilcotin region this fall.
The nation issued a statement Thursday (Aug. 25) asking those with Limited Entry Hunt (LEH) moose authorizations to forgo their moose hunt in the Tsilhqot’in (Chilcotin) Territory west of Williams Lake, noting hunters should consider the impacts of their hunt on the local Indigenous population.
Low moose numbers, a doubling of the LEH numbers in the area over last year and the fact that Tŝilhqot’in people rely on moose meat to feed their families are just some of the reasons for their stance on the upcoming hunt, said Nits’ilʔin (Chief) Joe Alphonse, O.B.C, Tribal Chair of the Tŝilhqot’in National Government (TNG).
“We’re going to start shutting down roads,” Alphonse said in a recent interview with Black Press Media, noting Mackin Creek Road and the Raven Lake Road will again be targets of closures as was the case in 2018. “We want to let people know ahead of time, ‘don’t come here’.”
Alphonse, who maintains the nation hasn’t been properly consulted by the province over these issues, said they do not agree with the provincial government’s allotment of hunting tags. Also, the large scale impacts of the 2017 wildfires have not been resolved.
“We are open to having local hunters, we don’t mind that, but when you are opening it up and having people from all across the province coming to hunt here, we don’t support that,” he said. “We chose to live here - I don’t think other people who don’t live here have that same right … we want to continue to have these discussions. Let’s keep it local - relieve the pressure.”
In an emailed response to Black Press Media, a spokesperson with the Ministry of Forests said they regret they were unable to achieve consensus with the TNG on the 2022 licenced hunting season and that the government does work collaboratively with Indigenous governments to find common ground.
The ministry further noted that while authorizations and harvest for 2022 are higher than last year, the 2021 licenced harvest level was heavily reduced in response to uncertainty associated to the wildfires and information from First Nations regarding harvest success.
“Based on both Western science and Indigenous knowledge the (moose) population is approximately the same as it was five years ago in 2017. This year’s authorizations for Limited Entry Hunt authorizations are 45 per cent below the 2017 level,” the ministry stated, noting the wildlife allocations for licenced hunters for 2022 take into account input from local First Nations, Indigenous Knowledge and Western science.
Alphonse also voiced his concern that logging roads and wildfires have created far too much access in the Chilcotin/Tsilhqot’in Territory, making the animals vulnerable to over-hunting and poaching, both of which have been further aided by the increase in the technology of scopes and guns.
“The access is beyond everything I could have ever imagined. Wildlife don’t have a chance. I encourage all Indigenous communities to have a long, hard look at their caretaker areas and start managing them. If you leave it to government and industry they’d leave all the roads open.”
In their response the ministry spokesperson further noted that management of licenced harvest in the region is “managed very conservatively and is only one part of the puzzle with respect to wildlife management. Habitat, access management and broader objective setting are all critical aspects of our shared success in achieving wildlife management goals.”
“We continue to address issues and opportunities to improve wildlife stewardship through both conversations with Indigenous partners and stakeholders, as well as through the many goals expressed in government’s Together for Wildlife strategy.”
While the TNG is looking to reduce access to some logging roads in the region and have asked hunters not to come to the area, Alphonse has said they would not attempt to stop hunters with LEHs.