FORT ST. JOHN, B.C. – Over 260 B.C. residents tuned into a virtual roundtable hosted by the B.C. Liberal caucus Wednesday to air their grievances with the province’s proposed hunting regulations in the Peace.

Many shared their frustration about the restrictions, while some questioned why the public, including local Indigenous groups in the area, weren’t consulted.

Others called for science-based hunting and wildlife conservation regulations as they feel that the province’s regulations are purely political.

The NDP’s knee-jerk reaction to the Blueberry River First Nation’s court case is to shut down moose hunting areas with no scientific basis, far removed from the BRFN’s immediate area. How does shutting down the moose hunt in the Peace Moberly tract improve hunting at Blueberry?” one Peace resident said.

“Also, keep in mind that this is a government decision, not one asked for by Blueberry. The moose population is healthy in region 7b,” the resident added.

BRFN Chief Judy Desjarlais received a death threat on March 24th, claiming that Indigenous people are the reason for proposed moose hunting restrictions in the region.

Others expressed concern that the regulations may set a precedent and affect hunting regulations in other regions.

Les Husband, a former president of the B.C. Wildlife Federation is looking for answers from the province on its decision, worried that changes to regulations in 7B will soon affect other regions.

“If this goes through, Region 6 (Skeena) won’t be far behind, and we will not have an open moose season in this province. That will shift to other species, which could be devastating for those who like to get out to hunt and fish.”

Residents also voiced their anxiety about the economic impact the proposed regulations will have on small businesses in the region, such as hotels, sporting goods stores, and hunting guides.

The Liberal caucus says they’re looking into having a follow-up roundtable as many residents couldn’t share their thoughts.

While many residents throughout the province spoke out against the regulations, the Salteau First Nations say they support the province’s proposed regulations.

Director of treaty rights and environmental protection for the Salteau First Nations, Naomi Owens-Beek, says the regulations acknowledge the cumulative effects Treaty 8 people have faced.

“It’s recognizing that we experienced a huge loss to our treaty with the way that moose have been hunted and harvested over the years. No one else in B.C. has an open season,”

“I don’t see why it should be any different here because we face a lot more than what the rest of B.C. faces. We have a lot of oil and gas activity pipelines, roads, transmission lines, mining, forestry, agriculture. We have it all here,” she continued.

Owens-Beek says research shows moose populations have been declining across the province for quite some time.

“If you’re aware of the regional strategic environmental assessment, we have done rate of change population trends, from B.C.’S moose counts over the past since 1996,” she said

“From those numbers, it is proven that moose are declining and living in a fragmented habitat. There’s a lot of habitat loss to moose, and people tend to ignore that. And so if people don’t want to look at science, that’s up to them, but B.C. has provided numbers over the years,” Owens-Beek continued.

Salteau First Nations recently released a letter that expressed their support for the proposed hunting restrictions.