Whitehorse Daily Star

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AN URGENT NEED FOR CLARIFICATION – The past summer’s events raise the question of whether theYukon government is stepping outside the normal practice of reaching wildlife management decisions, says executive director Gord Zealand of the Yukon Fish and Game Association.

Frost had no answers on controversy: YFGA

The Yukon Fish and Game Association was hoping for answers in the legislature 
Thursday afternoon but they didn’t come, says association president Charles Schewen.

By Chuck Tobin on October 5, 2018

The Yukon Fish and Game Association was hoping for answers in the legislature 
 Thursday afternoon but they didn’t come, says association president Charles Schewen.

Schewen, association vice-president Bryce Bekar and executive director Gord Zealand were in the house during question period when Environment Minister Pauline Frost was challenged on her handling of the hunting issue in the Ross River area.

This past summer, the Ross River Dena Council issued a statement insisting licensed Yukon hunters needed a permit from the First Nation to hunt in its traditional territory.

Frost was clear Thursday when she said the only authority governing licensed hunters in the Ross River area lies with the Yukon government.

How she arrived at the last-minute decision to cancel caribou permits to hunt the Finlayson caribou herd was, on the other hand, not so clear.

But the minister insisted she used her authority under the Wildlife Act to step in and protect a herd that has declined substantially in numbers since it peaked following the aerial wolf-kill in the 1980s.

It was a concern brought to her attention by the Dena Council and it was a matter she acted on, she told reporters in a scrum following question period.

Frost explained one of the key pieces of information missing from the process of making management decisions is the size of the harvest by the Kaska hunters of Ross River Dena Council.

They know how many of the Finlayson caribou are taken by licensed hunters, and they know many are taken by the big game outfitters in the area, she said.

The minister said the population estimate of 2,700 – down from 5,600 over the years – is based on sound science such as are aerial surveys.

What they need now, what she’s in discussions with the First Nation about, is getting an accurate estimate of how many Finlayson caribou Kaska hunters are harvesting, she explained.

Frost said she is hoping to have the necessary information in the next six months that will help form a “collective management plan.”

But the members of the fish and game association are questioning the path the minister took to close the caribou hunt at the last minute – with no public discussion about the closure nor the need for the closure.

The association president said the harvest by licensed hunters is under one per cent of the herd’s size.

“So we know we are in a sustainable place,” Schewen said outside the legislature.

He said he didn’t hear any good answers from the minister when she was being questioned about the matter by Yukon Party MLAs.

Zealand said the closure at the 11th hour has the appearance of a negotiated arrangement between Frost and the Ross River Dena Council.

That’s not how wildlife management is supposed to work in the Yukon, he said.

Zealand said management decisions are supposed to be brought forward to the central Yukon Fish and Wildlife Management Board.

It’s the board that provides the mechanism to consider management decisions with input from everybody, including the general public.

He said it’s the board that facilitates that discussion, with all the relevant information on the table for everybody to see and weigh.

That didn’t happen, Zealand emphasized.

As far as he knows, he said, any concern over the Finlayson caribou herd has not been brought forward to the board.

It raises the question of whether the Yukon government is stepping outside the normal practice of reaching wildlife management decisions, he suggested.

While the Ross River Dena Council does not have a land claim settlement, he said, the wildlife management board is still the central body to facilitate management decisions.

Zealand said he recognizes the Environment minister has the legal authority to invoke emergency hunting closures if she feels it’s necessary.

But in the case of the Finlayson herd, there was no discussion, not even a hint a closure was being contemplated by Frost and the Ross River Dena Council, he said.

Zealand said it came out of the blue.

The herd peaked in size after the wolf-kill, and one would expect to see a natural decline in the numbers in the years afterwards due to increasing predation, he suggested.

As for the harvest pressure, Zealand said, he doesn’t know who the largest harvester is.

“I don’t know if anybody else does either,” he said.

Zealand said the Ross River situation – the insistence by the Dena Council that hunters need the First Nation’s permission and the sudden caribou closure – has snared the attention of Yukoners like he’s not seen before.

In summary, according to information provided by the Department of Environment:

• Permit draws for hunters were held in June as normal. There are 30 Finlayson caribou permits for resident hunters and nine for the two big game outfitters in the area.

• On July 3, the 30 successful resident hunters were notified with the caveat that the permits were on hold, and the permits were never issued.

• Outfitters were notified they may not receive permits next year, as per the requirement to give outfitters a year’s notice before changing their permit allocation.

• On July 31, the day before hunting season opened, resident hunters were notified that the permits for the Finlayson caribou would not be issued.

• An aerial survey in 1999 estimated the Finlayson herd at 4,130, at 3,677 in 2007 and 2,712 last year.

• The combined annual harvest by resident hunters and outfitters ranged from five to 16 caribou from 1999 to 2017.

Comments (17)

Up 1 Down 2

Brian on Oct 12, 2018 at 12:56 pm

@Patti Eyre

Leases give you the same legal rights as "Titled land". Everyone pay taxes on Leases.
If you enter a cabin on a lease and take something as a momento and are caught on a Trail Cam or you're smart enough to post a picture on Facebook of the cool Coffee Pot you scored at this abandoned cabin, you can be charged for break and enter and also theft. It's been done, The RCMP will lay charges and they do.


So no it's not that same as "Titled Land" (for ability to sell or change ownership) but has the same laws protecting it. Leases identify ownership, taxes are paid. Yes, it's the same as entering a house in any community. Regardless if the tenant owns, rents, leases or resides in the residence through Social Assistance.

Up 3 Down 2

Joe on Oct 11, 2018 at 5:58 pm

@brian. Well one thing is for sure, it ain't the resident hunters fault. All we do is pay taxes to maintain the system. Are you kidding when you say outfitters aren't to blame? Equal blame lies with indigenous hunters who shoot out of season, over hunt and shoot cows and calves. Yes I have seen it in Ross River.

Up 3 Down 1

Patti Eyre on Oct 11, 2018 at 5:18 pm

Brian, leases don't give you title. Title gives you title. You ought to educate yourself a little more adequately if you are to purport to represent your industry. Although I suppose on the flip side you really do think a lease is the same as title? Nah Brian. And outfitters do squeeze out locals. Outfitters set up camps and make it look like they're occupied so locals move on elsewhere, away from those camps, which are not occupied and that's a cheap way to keep the money flowing into the outfitter pocket while the locals have to go farther and farther away. Nah Brian, not cool.

Up 5 Down 4

Brian on Oct 10, 2018 at 1:29 pm

@ Yukon Hunter
Yes, I am the President of the Yukon Trappers Association. I did not sign off as such, because this is was my personal opinion. Why would you make an invalid point except to attempt to hurt the people who are on the land and have valuable stakes. The people who actually make a living and live a lifestyle of respect. Something you seem to lack.
Knowledge of the Lands act too you seem deficient in knowledge. Leases are "Titled land" it gives one the exclusive right to that piece of land. Breaking into what you think is an illegal cabin, is the same as walking into a house in Copper Ridge or Mendehall and comes with the same Criminal Punishment in a court of law.
Go to the 3rd floor of Elijah Smith building and grab a copy of Trapline Cabin policy off their wall. It's in Black and White the laws.
Yes, a few years ago I did move here in 2008. And you have been here your whole life, and still don't know the laws.
Maybe that's why I have to tell you, because your "entitled attitude" makes you think your right.
I have contributed to our community in the Yukon. Why don't you mention my employment with YEMS and that I was a volunteer Ambulance Attendant in my community for a few years.
Why don't you maybe mention my 5 years as a member of the Canadian Armed Forces as well. Since you seem to want to throw mud.
I have given selflessly to the fur industry and have worked countless hours helping promote and develop the Fur Industry for Yukon Trappers.
Why not mention my TV Shows too and movie? What else, I have been married 11 years happily.

@TasinRange BS
Yup I am a Trapper that works in outfitting so that I can be on the land longer and in town less. Sorry for coming on the pavement.
Truth is there's a lot more to this article then what can be said in the comments blog.
I am just tired of Yukon Hunter and his constant BS that it's outfitters.

Up 9 Down 0

ProScience Greenie on Oct 10, 2018 at 12:43 pm

Outfitters, ie the trophy hunting business, should be at the very bottom of the list when it comes to hunting and fishing.

Up 3 Down 17

Ilove Parks on Oct 9, 2018 at 5:27 pm

Just hunt near Whitehorse. Oh, caribou populations are no longer in huntable numbers due to road kills and habitat fragmentation and disturbance by the weekend warrior due to ATVs and Skidoo's roaring around from street level to mountain top.

So these hunters want to go further afield. Maybe the issue is to hunt locally and leave populations for local people in other areas like Ross River.

Up 10 Down 5

Tasin Range BS on Oct 8, 2018 at 5:58 pm

Interesting comments from Brian.
"Weird cause the 3 outfitters I have worked for and the other 7 that are friends of mine all leave a portion of their concession near the communities for locals so their is not a conflict." Well, that's awfully nice of the outfitters to leave a portion of THEIR concession for us locals...... Darned nice. Of course that's BS.
So this has NOTHING to do with outfitters? OK. Some data.
GM 4 and 11 border the N Canol, ergo, these zones are directly adjacent to the area that the RRDC is concerned about re. over harvest. The RRDC is asking resident hunters to get permits but not non-resident. Last years harvest stats has 76 resident and 83 non resident Moose taken in GM 4 and 64 resident and 41 non in GM 11. So why aren't the outfitters required to get permits considering the numbers of moose THEY take? And then there's the issue of why the outfitters got to keep their PHAs for the Finlayson herd.
The fix is in Yukoners.

Up 8 Down 6

YukonMax on Oct 8, 2018 at 10:36 am

@Brian...Not 100% certain, but I think that before the bridge, the community was located on the other side of the river.

Up 18 Down 4

yukon hunter on Oct 8, 2018 at 10:02 am

First of all Brian, are you speaking as President of the Yukon Trappers Association, because that's who you are.
I've lived here all my life, and you move to The Yukon a few years ago and start telling ME I'm wrong??? You've already stated you work for and in the outfitting industry, so take off your rose coloured glasses.
And where did you get the idea that a lease gives you title, or is that just wishful thinking? Freudian slip eh? Outfitters have been building illegal cabins for years, and so have trappers.

Up 6 Down 7

Ed Norton on Oct 7, 2018 at 3:23 pm

BB news flash, there are many many variables that affect caribou populations besides hunting and predation.

Caveat: There has got to be a better way to undermine the aboriginal rights that are entrenched in the Constitution of Canada, cause their comments are just plain lame.

Up 23 Down 7

Josey Wales on Oct 6, 2018 at 6:49 pm

Awesome...race based taxes, race based laws, now we deal with race based hunting?
When we set up the “ cultural reprogramming centres “ or internment camp for lesser DNA, think they will let me bring my toothbrush...or right to the shower for me?

Up 17 Down 3

BB on Oct 6, 2018 at 2:08 pm

"An aerial survey in 1999 estimated the Finlayson herd at 4,130, at 3,677 in 2007 and 2,712 last year.
• The combined annual harvest by resident hunters and outfitters ranged from five to 16 caribou from 1999 to 2017."

One thing is certain. The dramatic drop in numbers in that herd is not the result of trophy hunting or licensed resident hunters. In 18 years the population dropped by 1400. That's 120 animals per year. At most 300 of that 1400 missing, are due to trophies and resident licensed hunters. Which would suggest that the people who do not need licenses, and poachers and predation, caused the rest of the decrease.

In the first 8 years it dropped by 450, in the second 8 years, by almost 1000. That might well be due to a recovering wolf population.
Caveat: I am not a fan of trophy hunting, nor of wolf kills. Just saying what I'm seeing!

Up 49 Down 6

Groucho d'North on Oct 6, 2018 at 9:50 am

I support the call for first nation harvest data to be on the table for all to see when discussing harvest quotas and related issues. This information has been hidden away for far too long, and please be sure to include how many cows and calves are shot each year too.

Up 17 Down 21

Brian on Oct 6, 2018 at 8:01 am

@Yukon Hunter
Would you stop with the BS about the outfitters! You're obviously living in a bubble, the amount of Yukoners and First Nations that own/work for Big Game outfitters is definitely in the 90% of the staffing.
This article has nothing to do with Big Game outfitting, except that it states the harvest rate for which the outfitters have to balance over their 5 year lease. Which is 1% of the herd population, so that clearly indicates the FN is over harvesting or there was a sudden die off due to a forest fire or some other act of God.
This article is more directed to the point that if RRDC were a settled band, then they could form a Renewable Resource Council that has 3 local representatives appointed by the Minister of Enviroment and 3 members appointed by the band.
Through a Renewable Resource council proper and regulated changes can and are made. That's how the other 11 First Nations have moved forward to protect their inherited rights and backed by Government support.
You say that outfitters are squeezing out locals? Weird cause the 3 outfitters I have worked for and the other 7 that are friends of mine all leave a portion of their concession near the communities for locals so their is not a conflict.
But you're so entitled you feel you deserve to land at my lake, use my dock and infrastructure because you have right too!
Naw Yukon Hunter, you don't. There are these things called "Leases" which gives us title on the land at that location. This is to protect us from people that think my trap cabin is an outfitter lease and can make themselves at home and take souvenirs. Traps I need to harvest fur to support my family.
I think the item that angered almost all the Yukoners was when in July the newspaper read that RRDC got their bridge fixed for 4.1 Million dollars and the following week, RRDC announced Non-Kaska hunters needed permits. Yet we're so grateful for the bridge repairs so they could access their traditional hunting grounds. Which raises an eyebrow to the question of; How did they cross the river in the past?

Up 17 Down 43

Ilove Parks on Oct 5, 2018 at 6:54 pm

I think Frost is taking a little bit of a hard line on this file and hope her thinking thaws a little by spring.
Maybe Gord Zealand should research how government and First Nation relations have evolved in his namesake country as part of his background research.
If there are victims in this situation they are local aboriginal hunters who hunt for food.

Up 35 Down 6

yukon hunter on Oct 5, 2018 at 4:39 pm

Y'know, Yukon hunters have been dealing with lots of restrictions to our access for years in the form of outfitters and some local air services working together to block access. That and some outfitters actively working their areas to curtail residents opportunities. But now that it's a First Nation, only now is the YFGA getting active.
Seems like only First Nations get residents up in arms, but slowly residents are getting squeezed by outfitters.

Up 18 Down 26

Ilove Parks on Oct 5, 2018 at 4:02 pm

I would say the caribou closure was an emergency accommodation measure because the government was caught off guard by the First Nation.

It's time to work through this using information, consultation and respect.
It's not the time for finger pointing or thinly veiled racist comments.

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