Hunt must be curbed

Recently, the Vuntut Gwitchin First Nation has taken action to protect the Porcupine caribou herd on its settlement lands.

Recently, the Vuntut Gwitchin First Nation has taken action to protect the Porcupine caribou herd on its settlement lands.

But it’s clear substantially more must be done to safeguard the animals.

In 1989, the herd numbered more than 178,000.

Today, it is pegged at 110,000. Or fewer.

Possibly far fewer.

This year, cloud cover and sparse clusters of the animals prevented an accurate airborne count while the animals were gathered in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.

And those pictures captured many images of calves, which are not normally tallied in the count.

The 110,000 figure comes from those pictures. It is probably an overstatement.

Which is why worst-case estimates peg the herd at 78,000, which would be the lowest recorded number in history.

As a result, the First Nation has implemented a near-complete hunting ban on its settlement lands, which are scattered between the Alaskan and NWT borders.

Now, the only people who can harvest the animals on Vuntut Gwitchin lands are subsistence hunters. And then, only bulls can be taken.

The First Nation will turn down all hunting requests from all non-resident hunters on its settlement lands. It gets about 20 such requests per year. That’s piddly few.

Especially when you consider the hunt continues unabated on Yukon Crown land. Dozens, if not hundreds of hunters ferry carcasses up and down the Dempster Highway every fall.

Which is why the Yukon government should consider following the First Nation’s lead, and suspend all non-subsistence hunting of the Porcupine herd — at least until an accurate census can be completed.

Something is causing the animals to die off. In 17 years, their numbers have shrunk by one-third.

Until that cause — hunting, global warming, mineral development — is pinned down, continuing to hunt the animals is folly.

The Vuntut Gwitchin First Nation depends on the herd for food and its culture.

If it is suspending all but subsistence hunting on the herd, then the rest of the territory’s hunters should respect that ban as well. (RM)

YUKON ECONOMY

Spend, spend, spend.

We have a request.

Can Premier Dennis Fentie please tell us how much the territory’s economy will grow next year?

Will it be four per cent? Six per cent?

Or is he going to open Finance’s floodgates and hand citizens a whopping eight-per-cent growth rate next year?

According to the latest federal stats, the territory had the beefiest economy in the country.

It expanded 5.2 per cent in 2005, growing faster than BC and Alberta’s economy, according to Statistics Canada.

Yeah, faster than Alberta’s oil patch.

How did it happen?

Over the last couple of years, the boost was driven by “quite significant” government spending increases, according to Pat O’Hagan, a director with the federal statistics agency.

Today, 50 per cent of the territory’s GDP is territorial spending.

Clearly, economic expansion is within the government’s bailiwick.

And there are signs government spending is not going to diminish anytime soon.

In October, Fentie’s caucus shrank to 10 MLAs from 12. But the support staff will remain constant.

That translates to an increase in the Executive Council Office staffing budget of 16 per cent.

And omnibus minister Archie Lang now has two executive assistants, up from one — a 100 per cent increase.

These are good signs for the rest of us.

So, Mr. Fentie, what’s it going to be this year?

How much are you going to increase government spending?

Four-per-cent? Seven?

We’d love to know. (RM)

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