NEWS

New hunting regulations in B.C. favour foreigners, says Wildlife Federation

12/12/2014 10:39 EST | Updated 02/11/2015 05:59 EST
Changes to the policy that dictates how hunting permits are allocated in B.C. are being criticized for favouring foreign interests.

The B.C. government quietly announced changes to its Wildlife Allocation Policy this week through a letter sent to the Guide Outfitters Association of B.C. and the B.C. Wildlife Federation, which advocates for local hunters.

The CBC obtained the letter sent to GOABC. It outlines the percentage of permits allocated for Limited Entry Hunts in the province. 

The percentage of permits split between resident hunters and guide-outfitters depends on the species and on the region of the province.

There is a range from a 80/20 per cent split in favour of resident hunters to a 60/40 per cent split, also in favour of residents.

In the case of antlerless elk in the Peace Region, 98 per cent of permits will be allocated to residents, with only 2 per cent given to guide outfitters.

Guide outfitters are able to take the permits they are allocated, and to sell them to non-residents for guided hunts. Clients come from around the world, including other Canadian provinces. Under B.C. rules, anyone who doesn't resident in B.C. needs to hire a guide in order to do any hunting.

Under the previous policy, the percentage of permits each group would receive was calculated each year, with each group getting a set minimum percentage of permits for each group.

Guide outfitters were only guaranteed 10 per cent of most big game hunts, with the exception of sheep and goats, for which they received 20 per cent. Because the new allocations start at 20 per cent, with the exception of antlerless elk, guide outfitters will get a bigger percentage of permits under the new rules.

"In making my decision, I kept to the principle that resident hunters are a higher priority than non-resident hunters. I also recognize that guide outfitters need business certainty to remain economically viable," reads the letter, which is signed by Steve Thompson, B.C.'s Minister of Natural Resources.

B.C. residents worried they're losing permits to foreigners

The B.C. Wildlife Federation, which advocates for local hunters, said commercial interests are getting too big a share.

"Now we're looking at bringing [the number of permits given to residents] down to 80 per cent, the federation's Wildlife Committee Co-Chair Jesse Zeman told The Early Edition's Rick Cluff. 

"Across the province, just in the last couple of years, we're looking at 5,000 fewer licenses."

Zeman said across North America, most jurisdictions allow non-residents to hunt between 5 and 10 per cent of the allowable harvest.

According to the B.C. Wildlife Federation, the number of B.C. residents who have taken up hunting has increased over the last decade by about 20 per cent. Over that same period of time, it said the number of foreign hunters coming to B.C. to employ guide-outfitters has dropped by about a third.

"Primarily residents pay the majority of their fees and taxes to support the industry or to support the policy," said Zeman.

Executive director of GOABC Scott Ellis said he supports B.C. residents having priority for permits, but said guide-outfitters represent small business owners who are also residents of B.C. and who contribute to the province's tourism industry. Like resident hunters, commercial guides pay for their permits.

"We have abundantopportunity in British Columbia for residents and for guides. If you look at other jurisdictions, like the Yukon and Northwest Territories, guide-outfitters get significantly more than we're getting in British Columbia," he said.

Guide-outfitters say new policy will cost them

Ellis said the guide-outfitter industry is still taking a big hit with the new rules, despite the increase in the number of animals it will be allowed to hunt.

"We lost in this process, and then the winning team in this process is crying foul. I'm having a little trouble swallowing that," he said.

Ellis said his industry is still reeling from 2007, when the government brought in a new Harvest Allocation Policy, which he said significantly reduced the number of permits guide-outfitters received.

Ellis said the changes introduced in 2007 have meant an annual loss of $6 million to the industry. He estimates the new policy will bring that to about a $3 to $4 million annual loss overall compared to 2006.

"This change from 21 per cent of our share of the moose in the Cariboo to 25 [per cent] is about 45 moose for us. That's less than one per outfitter," he said.

"No one has been able to demonstrate an impact to the resident hunting community, and it's been demonstrated over and over again that there's going to be a loss to our side," he said.

The new rules only apply to Limited Entry Hunting. B.C. residents will still be able to hunt a number of species during open hunting seasons.

An e-mail to CBC from the Ministry of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations says First Nations hunts and conservation goals won't be affected.

To hear more about the latest changes to B.C.'s Wildlife Allocation Policy, click the audio labelled: B.C. Wildlife Federation and Guide-Outfitters Association of B.C. on new hunting regulations.

On mobile? Click here to see the letter the B.C. Minister of Forests, Lands and Natural Resources sent the Guide Outfiters Association of B.C.

MORE:cbcNews