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Province shortens hunting season following Tahltan blockades

First Nation protestors who took a stand last fall against over-hunting in their traditional territory will see a shortened hunting season this year in northern B.C., but say they will continue to fight for stricter regulations in Skeena Region 6.

Tahltan Central Council chair Annita McPhee credits last fall’s blockades along the Telegraph Creek Highway at the Tatcho River, eight miles west of Dease Lake, and the Klappan River Road turnoff 10 minutes south of Iskut on Highway 37 for opening discussions with provincial officials over what the nation describes as a hunting free-for-all in its territory.

This fall’s moose hunting season has been reduced in the Klappan, southeast of Iskut, to Sept. 15 through Oct. 15. The season for all other management units in the province’s far northwest have been reduced to Aug. 20 through Oct. 31.

“I think these changes are definitely a result of our people coming together and taking action,” McPhee said, adding that the nation had formed the Tahltan Wildlife Committee to work with government on wildlife management issues. “We’re hoping this is a step in the right direction, but more needs to get done.”

Previously, management units in the northern half of Skeena Region 6 -- the province’s northwestern quadrant -- carried the longest moose open seasons in B.C., from mid-August until mid-November. As a result, hunters from across the province, particularly those turned down for limited entry licences elsewhere, converged on the area during the moose rut.

The Tahltan Nation argued that reliable moose population data was lacking for the area, while hunting went virtually unchecked.

In the B.C. legislature last fall, Stikine MLA Doug Donaldson also blamed diminished funding for wildlife management, resulting in unreliable population statistics, for the blockades. Donaldson blasted the Liberals for cutting the Ministry of Environment’s budget last year by nearly 30 per cent from the previous year.

The Tahltan said there hadn’t been a population study for moose in the area since 1982, although the Ministry of Environment said data from about seven inventories completed in the Dease Lake area since 1978, including one in the Klappan in 2001 and in Spatsizi Plateau Wilderness Provincial Park in 1990, showed a healthy moose population for the area.

For the first time this year, hunters will also be subject to a compulsory inspection in an effort to improve the accuracy of moose harvest data, according to Ministry of Environment spokesperson Suntanu Dalal. He added that a strip transect moose inventory survey was undertaken by helicopter this March by the ministry and Tahltan Nation in the Klappan, Morchua Lake and Tuya/Level Mountain areas.

The results of that study have not been released.

While Dalal said the hunting regulation changes were not a direct result of last fall’s roadblocks, he added that an agreement between the ministry and the Tahltan to work more collaboratively on wildlife management issues was.

“MOE will be working with the Tahltan Nation through the Wildlife Working Group to discuss and resolve the concerns raised by them,” Dalal said. “No decisions have been made regarding any additional changes to the moose hunting regulations.”

Hook contributor Amanda Follett reports from Smithers.

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