FORT ST. JOHN, B.C. – The BC Wildlife Federation is worried that a tentative agreement between Blueberry River First Nations and the provincial government will majorly impact outdoor recreation in Northeast BC.

The province and Blueberry River signed an agreement to establish a $65-million fund to begin land and wildlife restoration activities after the B.C. Supreme Court’s cumulative impacts case ruling seven months ago. A judge found the province infringed on the band’s treaty rights by allowing industrial development in the traditional territory.

The First Nation also agreed to allow 195 forestry and oil and gas projects that were approved before the court decision to proceed.

The BCWF is concerned that the agreement will result in a 50 per cent reduction of moose harvest and complete closure of caribou hunting in the northeast.

Furthermore, the agreement will also have “dramatic implications” for outdoor recreationists, hikers, campers, and anglers across the province, the organization said in a release.

“We are gravely concerned that the province is negotiating away outdoor recreation instead of confronting the court decision dealing with cumulative effects of unsustainable resource extraction,” BCWF Executive Director Jesse Zeman.

Zeman believes the government will trade away recreation for industry projects, such as Site C.

“The Peace region has the highest density moose populations in the province. The province’s own data indicates hunting is sustainable and that licensed hunter harvest is extremely low,” Zeman continued.

The federation says it supports the rights of First Nations and that the commitment to conservation and habitat restoration is shared between First Nations and non-First Nations.

“For years, both Treaty 8 Nations and the BCWF have pushed the provincial government to focus on wildlife management, controlled burns and habitat restoration in the region. In a number of cases, our clubs and partners have done all of the work the province should be doing, even paying for controlled burns only to have the government refuse to approve them,” said Zeman.

“Now, after years of failing to do anything for wildlife, the province appears to be dividing First Nations and non-indigenous communities instead of bringing us together.”

In December, the province placed restrictions on snowmobiling in South Peace areas that contain caribou habitat, which has caused pushback from residents and local governments.

The Peace River Regional District penned a letter to the province after an in-depth discussion on the government’s lack of transparency regarding the restrictions.

To view the BCWF’s release, click here.