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Tr’ondëk Hwëch’in Chief Roberta Joseph

Hunt decision based on partial data, chief says

Tr’ondëk Hwëch’in Chief Roberta Joseph says the decision to open up a hunt on the Fortymile caribou herd was premature.

By Chuck Tobin on January 13, 2020

Tr’ondëk Hwëch’in Chief Roberta Joseph says the decision to open up a hunt on the Fortymile caribou herd was premature.

It was premature because there is crucial information that has not been gathered but needs to be part of the evaluation process before deciding to open the hunt, she said in an interview this morning.

Joseph said the decision by the Yukon government should not have been made without completion of the joint harvest management plan under development between the government and the First Nation.

Proceeding without the approval of Tr’ondëk Hwëch’in is not in keeping with the spirit of the First Nation’s final land claim agreement, she said.

The chief said just because Alaska has developed a total allowable harvest doesn’t mean the Yukon has to fall in line with their management strategy.

There are still unknowns about the herd and just how active it is on this side of the border, she said, adding that nobody knows for sure how many of the Fortymile caribou actually migrate into the Yukon.

“In our view, there are regulations being made unilaterally without the final approval of the harvest management plan,” Joseph said. “As well, there is still information that is not being taken into consideration.”

The Yukon government opened up a limited hunt with unique restrictions on Jan. 1 after receiving support for the proposal last month from the Yukon Fish and Wildlife Management Board.

Board chair John Burdek sent the chief a letter last Thursday explaining the board’s position based on observations wildlife managers were seeing in Alaska. He also expressed his hope that the difference in opinion regarding the hunt does not affect what he described as a strong relationship between the board and the Tr’ondëk Hwëch’in.

The Fortymile used to number in the hundreds of thousands, ranging far and wide in both the Yukon and Alaska. The Yukon suspended the hunt on the herd in 1995 when the population was estimated at 6,500 caribou.

It’s now estimated at 84,000 animals.

Senior Yukon government biologist Rob Florkiewicz explained recently there is concern the herd’s rate of growth is affecting its health because it’s growing faster than it’s able to re-occupy some of its traditional foraging range.

Having a limited hunt will slow the growth and buy more time for the herd to spread further afield into fresh habitat, he explained.

The government is making 225 permits available. The hunt will be conducted in 10-day intervals to the end of March, with 25 permits being made available for each interval.

The first interval ended Friday. Two caribou were harvested, according to the mandatory reporting requirements, though hunters have until today to file their reports.

The Tr’ondëk Hwëch’in chief noted, for instance, they need to complete a study on the food and habitat available in the Fortymile’s traditional range.

More needs to be known about the impact of bear and wolf predation, she said.

Joseph suggested if you don’t know how many caribou even come into the Yukon, it’s difficult to determine management guidelines.

Knowing the answers to those questions will help to finalize a joint harvest management plan on which the Yukon can better assess if there should be a hunt and how large it should be, she suggested.

Joseph emphasized the Tr’ondëk Hwëch’in have given up their subsistence hunt of Fortymile caribou for more than two decades.

Comments (5)

Up 55 Down 11

My Opinion on Jan 13, 2020 at 9:28 pm

The reason there is limited data is the First Nation has not stopped harvesting and has not been reporting. That is how they know the Data is incomplete. The resource is to be managed by the Government with input from the FN not the other way around.

Up 55 Down 11

Joe on Jan 13, 2020 at 5:11 pm

Were reading right through your lines Chief Joseph. The UFA says collaboration, not permission as you allege. Like we keep saying, report and we will collaborate.

Up 11 Down 38

Miles Epanhauser on Jan 13, 2020 at 4:11 pm

The THFN are very thorough and it seems they want a recovery plan of the highest order.

Up 53 Down 10

Thomas Brewer on Jan 13, 2020 at 3:50 pm

Partial data you say? Hmmmm maybe like reporting first nation harvesting numbers??

Up 51 Down 10

BnR on Jan 13, 2020 at 3:35 pm

The only unknowns are the First Nation harvest numbers. And not just for this instance, but all across the board.

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