Hunters from three area wildlife clubs will be holding a protest in West Kelowna this weekend, asking the provincial government to re-consider a wildlife allocation policy in a public fight that is pitting hunters and guide-outfitters against each other.
In December the government announced a new B.C. Wildlife Allocation Policy that lays out how the different species of animals taken by hunters is split between B.C. residents and non-resident hunters, who must be guided to hunt in B.C.
It’s an issue the groups have been fighting about since the government first introduced the policy in 2007 but the latest re-working of the policy, announced in December, has resident hunters up in arms about the allocation, which they say gives an unfair split to B.C.’s guide-outfitters.
“Our message is that the policy is not good for B.C residents and it’s not good for wildlife,” said Sean Richardson of the Oceola Fish and Game Club. “I don’t think B.C. residents agree with 20 to 40 per cent of wildlife being allocated to foreign hunters.”
Depending on the type of game as well as the region of the province, the policy lays out the allocation between resident hunters and guide-outfitters. In region 8, the Okanagan, splits range from 80-20 for bull moose to 70-30 for big horn sheep to 60-40 for Grizzly Bears, of which are not a high demand for local hunters in the area.
The Guide-Outfitters Association of B.C. (GOABC), which represents some 245 hunting guides in the province, says the new policy came after a decade of negotiations between the B.C. government, the GOABC and the B.C. Wildlife Federation, which represents resident hunters.
The two sides are on opposite sides of the issue of how to properly split the hunting resource. The guide-outfitters say legislated splits will help revive an industry that brings high-yield tourists into B.C. while resident hunters claim the splits make it harder for them to provide healthy, local meats for their families and wonder why local businesses need help from the government to survive.
The Guide Outfitters Association of B.C. says it’s time to put the last decade of fighting amongst the two hunting groups in the past.
“Neither side is happy with the splits,” said executive director Scott Ellis. “We wanted more. We lost flexibility so it’s a problem and there will be hardships still from our side. But at least we see there is certainty for the industry so we appreciate that. We are supporting the decision and encourage it to go into legislation so we can stop fighting about the piece of the pie.”
Ellis maintained that individual resident hunters will not feel much impact by the allocation changes and that hunting opportunity will remain much the same as most species will be managed through general open seasons. He says when you compare tags issued for species, the resident hunting take remains closer to 90 per cent for many species in B.C. and added the GOABC took losses in the negotiations including access to vacant areas of the province, which guides are not allowed to hunt in.
But while the guide outfitters are asking for the policy to move into law, the B.C. Wildlife Federation says the new allocation policy is weighted unfairly in favour of non-residents and is a big departure from what was originally negotiated in 2007. A week ago a public protest was held in Prince George and this weekend the group will be out in force again in Kelowna, asking its members to write letters to the government so the policy can be re-visited.
“Ultimately we want to put all of this behind us and work with the guide outfitters (to support the resource) but the problem is the policy is not acceptable and the fear is it will get legislated at these splits (in allocation),” said Richardson. “This policy is nowhere near what was negotiated and agreed to by the hunting community.”
The local groups will hold a protest Saturday at 11 a.m. at the old Zellers parking lot at 3571 Old Okanagan Highway in West Kelowna.