B.C. First Nations attempt to block trophy bear hunting
Ten First Nations on B.C.’s north and central coasts have declared that trophy bear hunting is banned in their territory, though they have no legal authority to do so.
The native groups hope to discourage or end hunting in the Great Bear Rainforest, 70,000 square kilometres of temperate coastal rainforest, extending from just north of Vancouver Island, to the B.C.-Alaska boundary.
But B.C.’s Forests and Lands Minister, Steve Thomson, said that not only is the current hunt sustainable and based on sound science, hunting regulations are clearly a provincial matter. “I’m disappointed in the declaration,” he told the Globe and Mail newspaper. “Given that the province has the responsibility for setting the harvest limits, we’d ask [native groups] to respect that authority,” he said.
The region in question is home to a developing ecotourism industry, and famous for its unspoiled temperate rainforest and wildlife, including the rare Kermode or “spirit” bear. Kermodes are black bears that are cream- or white-coloured because of a recessive gene. Although they are protected and cannot legally be shot, it is impossible for hunters to know if a black-colored black bear has the recessive gene that could produce white offspring.
William Housty, integrated resource manager for the Heiltsuk Nation, told CBC news that hunting threatens the First Nations’ lucrative ecotourism opportunities, but the province has ignored their concerns. “Because we have not ceded any of this land to anybody, we feel that we have a voice and should have a voice in how these lands are managed and this includes the bear hunt,” he said.
“It goes against our cultural beliefs and values of management of our territories and bears in particular, and because we have an increasing presence on our land with research projects, with our people reconnecting to the land, it doesn’t make sense to have hunters in the same area,” Housty said.
“Our concern is that people without jurisdiction are unilaterally deciding something like this,” said Scott Ellis, executive director of the Guide Outfitters Association of B.C. “Hunting has been going on, on the north and central coast, for more than 100 years, and the bear populations are healthy,” he told the Globe and Mail.
The B.C. government has not yet formulated a response to the threatened ban. However Thomson has instructed wildlife staff to open discussions with the 10 bands that make up the Coastal First Nations.