Grizzly standing on a beach in the Great Bear Rainforest with its reflection in the water. Bob Bush photo.

Outfitter, MLA react to grizzly hunt ban

Decision to stop the hunt based on emotion, not science, say critics.

The provincial government has announced it is officially ending the grizzly bear hunt for resident and non-resident hunters effective immediately.

The announcement, a joint statement from the Ministry of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations and Rural Development, along with the Ministry of Environment and Climate Change Strategy, closes the spring hunt that was expected to open on April 1, 2018.

A local guide outfitter who operates out of Sparwood, says the announcement was a bit surprising as there had been discussions about banning the possession of the trophy parts of a bear, but not an outright ban on the hunt.

“It’s not unexpected, but a bit surprising that it was an entire ban, because that hasn’t been in the discussion,” said Dave Beranek, who runs Packhorse Creek Outfitters with a territory located in the Flathead Valley.

“…Speaking specific to the ban, from an industry standpoint, it’s not well received and definitely will have a financial impact on the industry.”

Given that clients can drop up to $20,000 on a grizzly bear hunt, the ban could have a huge financial impact on local guide outfitters, he said. Some guide outfitters operate on a diversity of hunts including elk and sheep and black bear, however, other guide outfitters operate solely for grizzly bears.

“The impact is really two-fold,” said Beranek. “One is the loss of direct revenue streams and the ability to bring in a client and the second, just as important, is the valuation of guide territory, because its part of your whole product line.

“Ultimately the value of the business is depreciated and again, that’s somewhat dependent on how many bears you’re allowed to hunt, but some outfitters, a high percentage of their revenue stream is grizzly bear hunting.”

In August, the government announced that it was ending the trophy hunt of grizzly bears in the Great Bear Rainforest on the West Coast. It also launched a consultation process with the public, stakeholders and wildlife biologists that resulted in 4,180 emails to the province. The government also held meetings with First Nations and non-government organizations about the issue.

According to a government backgrounder, 78 per cent of respondents were opposed to the grizzly bear hunt and issues raised included:

• The hunt is no longer appropriate

• Too many loopholes in the proposed regulations

• Wasteful to leave anything behind after an animal is killed

• Lack of significance of the meat hunt for grizzly bears

• Economics of grizzly bear hunting

• Hunting as a management tool

The ban does not apply to Treaty First Nations, who will be able to harvest grizzly bears and possess all grizzly parts when the harvest is done, pursuant to treaty rights.

The provincial government estimates that there are 15,000 grizzlies in the province.

Kootenay East MLA Tom Shypitka castigated the NDP government for making a decision based on emotion and public opinion rather than science.

“The issues they have on the Lower Mainland, the Fraser Valley, on the Island, are apples and oranges compared to what we deal with in Kootenay East,” said Shypitka, “so why is it that someone that’s drinking a latte in Surrey is making a decision on an issue here in Kootenay East?

“It makes absolutely no sense, there’s no science behind this.”

Shypitka also blamed the decision by the NDP government as appeasement to supporters who were disappointed with the decision to move forward with the Site C dam.

“I think this decision is based more on politics because of what just happened with Site C,” said Shypitka. “The NDP just finished making an announcement on the continuation of Site C which really rattled and disenfranchised a lot of their base support and I see this decision [grizzly hunt ban] as timely to appease those that were frustrated and upset with the Site C decision.

“This has nothing to do with wildlife management, this has nothing to do with restoring our populations and building a very healthy wildlife ecosystem. It’s all about appeasing people in the Lower Mainland. This is just another example of how this government is putting up walls between rural and urban British Columbia.”

In the announcement, Doug Donaldson, the Minister of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations and Rural Development, said the government is listening to British Columbians.

“Through consultations this past fall, we have listened to what British Columbians have to say on this issue and it is abundantly clear that the grizzly hunt is not in line with their values,” Donaldson said. “Our government continues to support hunting in this province and recognizes our hunting heritage is of great importance to many British Columbians.”

Wildsight welcomes grizzly trophy hunt ban

Wildsight, a local organization dedicated to conservation issues in the region, welcomed the announcement, according to executive director Robyn Duncan.

Duncan says reducing the hunt will help mortality rates, however, there are larger issues facing grizzly bear populations include habitat and landscape connectivity.

“Grizzly bears, like so many other large predators, need space to roam, undisturbed by humans,” said Duncan. “They need connectivity to travel across the landscape and for bears to move between populations to maintain genetic diversity. Without significant changes in how we manage the human footprint on the land in BC, declines will continue for many species.

“We have more and more roads and recreation in our backcountry, more development spreading out from our towns, and the impacts of forestry and mining are broad and deep.”

Duncan referenced a recent report from the Auditor General, released in October, that examined what the government was doing to manage the grizzly bear population.

It was not flattering.

“While government has undertaken activities to conserve grizzly bears, some of their commitments have gone unfulfilled,” wrote Carol Bellringer, the Auditor General and author of the report. “These include identifying and securing key grizzly bear habitats, creating a grizzly bear management plan and implementing a recovery plan for the North Cascades Grizzly Bear population.”

Duncan says the AG report criticized the government for poor and inconsistent monitoring of grizzly bear populations.

“We need to dedicate more resources to wildlife management, including grizzly bear population monitoring, in order to safeguard our wildlife into the future,” she said.

Donaldson has committed to a full review and consultation of BC’s wildlife management in 2018.

“Industry has dominated land use in British Columbia for far too long,” said Duncan. “Instead of piecemeal struggles to protect the remaining patches of old growth forest, individual wildlife corridors and critical habitats, we need to come together for land-use planning that integrates forestry, mining, roads and recreation. Real wildlife management will require changes that include additional protected areas and carefully managed connectivity across the landscape.”

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