FORT ST. JOHN, B.C. – The B.C. Liberals and the British Columbia Wildlife Federation have not minced their words regarding their stance on the province’s new hunting restrictions in the Peace region. 

The B.C. government officially announced changes to hunting regulations on Thursday, though the issue initially sparked outrage earlier this year, culminating in death threats directed at Blueberry River First Nations Chief Judy Desjarlais.

There are generally open seasons for moose hunting in the Peace region from August 15th to October 31st.

With the changes announced last Thursday, the province is excluding August from the season for one year and will be restricted to limited-entry hunting in the Peace.

“The government has allowed Treaty 8 territories to be damaged by industrial development. Rather than address that problem, B.C. has opted to impose hunting regulations that have no basis in science,” said B.C. Wildlife Federation executive director Jesse Zeman. 

North Peace MLA Dan Davies also believes the province’s decision isn’t based on science.

“This was a government decision done with limited consultation and zero science. Decisions based on the land should really be based on science,” Davies said.

In a May 19th release, the province said that the changes were “informed by extensive engagement with the public, First Nations, the Guide Outfitters Association of British Columbia and the B.C. Wildlife Federation.”

The BCWF claims that the province has also negotiated numerous industry deals, which they failed to mention in their May 19th press release.

“What the government press release omits is that B.C. has also negotiated a deal that will see 195 forestry, oil and gas projects proceed in the traditional territory of the Blueberry River First Nation. Another 20 industrial projects in Blueberry territory are still up for negotiation,” the BCWF said.

The federation adds that the restricted areas are areas of the province that are “essentially untouched by civilization.”

“The Muskwa-Kechika management area is 17,000 square kilometres with virtually no road access and none of the cumulative effects of industry that the province is bound by the court to address,” BCWF said.

Both Davies and the BCWF say that they support treaty rights, but the BCWF doesn’t believe the hunting restrictions do anything to address those rights.

“BCWF fully supports the rights of First Nations to hunt and fish in their traditional territories for food, social and ceremonial purposes,” the federation said.

“The provincial government’s regulation changes do nothing to address the impacts of industrial activity faced by Treaty 8 First Nations,” said Zeman.  

Davies said another one of his concerns is that the restrictions will affect many local families who rely on moose meat for sustenance.

“There are people in Fort St. John that have never bought store-bought meat. Suddenly, the government steps in and says, no, you can’t do that. It’s going to cause a rift, and it already has. Since yesterday, my office has received hundreds of phone calls on this issue,” Davies told Energeticcity on Friday.

The province recently gathered resident feedback on a draft of a Boreal Caribou Protection and Recovery Plan specific to Northeast B.C., which was co-developed by the province in partnership with the Fort Nelson First Nation in collaboration with the NRRM.

The draft plan seeks to replace the existing Implementation Plan for the Ongoing Management of Boreal Caribou in British Columbia, which has been in place since 2011.

The ministry of forests says hunting regulation changes in Northeast BC are a temporary measure and part of more in-depth actions to improve wildlife stewardship, uphold Treaty rights and enhance habitat conservation.

According to the province, the changes look to address impacts from industrial development highlighted in the Supreme Court of B.C.’s ruling in favour of Blueberry River First Nation last year.

To read the BCWF’s complete statement, click here.

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Spencer Hall is a news reporter for energeticcity.ca and a recent graduate of the British Columbia Institute of Technology’s Radio Arts & Entertainment program. Growing up in Northwest B.C. made Spencer aware of the importance of local journalism, independent media, and reconciliation. In his spare time, you can find Spencer reading, playing video games, or at the FSJ dog park with his dog, Teddy.