Letter to the Editor

Government ignores its own rules Open letter to Energy minister Archie Lang re the land lease application process for big game outfitters, Last…

Government ignores its own rules

Open letter to Energy minister Archie Lang re the land lease application process for big game outfitters,

Last week, it became apparent the Yukon’s lands branch is not sincerely interested in implementing preventative measures to hold big game hunting outfitters accountable for what happens on their land leases.

On the contrary, the lands branch seems willing to help outfitters obtain as many land leases as they wish.

After spending considerable time informing ourselves, we find the application process for outfitter land leases flawed.

It’s a farce. Here’s why:

Lone Wolf Outfitters applied for 11 land lease parcels (15 hectares in total) and 29 licenses for satellite camps.

According to the lands branch, outfitter land leases are only approved for pre-existing sites that have been continually used over decades by big game outfitting, and, therefore, don’t require a Yukon Environmental and Socioeconomic Assessment Act review.

We strongly disagree.

A YESAA assessment should be mandatory for all of these applications, particularly Lone Wolf’s.

Just have a look for yourself. It’s all there, only a click away on Lone Wolf’s spectacular website (www.lonewolfoutfitting.com).

This is what its owner advertises:

“Every new camp we build, every new ATV we purchase, every new jet boat we add to the inventory, every new snowmachine we buy, every new horse that is added to the string are things we are doing to meet the growing demand to stretch our seasons and activities available.

“We take pride in our very latest equipment, which means keeping the very best crew to run and maintain our expanding inventory. This includes everything in all of our 12 main camps and always-growing number of spike camps in never before hunted areas.

“We spend time flying our area to learn some of the hidden potential for unhunted game populations … our own plane allows us to expand into new areas every year. Our flexibility makes your adventure with Lone Wolf that much more relaxing!”

It’s absolutely astounding.

Lone Wolf Outfitting readily admits to building new camps every year in his outfitting concession, while the lands branch currently doesn’t see a need to go out and inspect these sites.

We clearly find it an abuse of the intent of the outfitters land lease policy if the lands branch hands out leases for new camps and cabins.

Lone Wolf’s pictures of its new cabins are awesome?

Some look as if they are built down by the shorelines of gorgeous wilderness lakes.

Apparently some outfitters aren’t the asking kind.

It’s amazing that the lands branch doesn’t seem to have a problem with that. Instead, it is quite happy to rubber-stamp these “informal” outfitter activities.

To top it off, outfitters are, in fact, rewarded with new options to apply and legally acquire land leases to these sites.

Titled leases can be mortgaged and will, of course, significantly increase the value of the outfitting concessions.

It’s like money growing on trees.

Outfitters are entitled to apply for as many base camp leases as they wish. Why are they given such extremely favorable conditions?

Have you ever tried to get a piece of land for a cabin on a beautiful lake out in the Yukon wilderness?

If you have, you surely know it’s practically impossible.

Obviously this is not the case for big game outfits.

Suddenly, important policies are reduced to mere guidelines and are not truly binding.

It seems that this government trusts some of the outfitters blindly. Just click again for more specifics on Lone Wolf’s fabulous website. Try the rental cabin link this time.

Yes, these camps are available for vacations. You can bring the whole family and fish all day, canoe, or hike.

Remember, this is all happening on land leases he is determined to acquire under the mantle of outfitting. And he uses them for wilderness tourism.

Sure, he’s got a wilderness tourism license, but he’ll take an oath in front of the lands branch manager, and two witnesses, to never use these land leases for any other purpose than big game outfitting.

Are we missing something here?

We thought outfitters were highly regulated in this territory.

To get some further clues, we studied the draft of the government of Yukon outfitters lease document that will serve as a base for the actual contract signed between the outfitter and the lands branch.

It’s impressive! Everything from water setbacks to clearly defined land use is in there. A whooping 49 provisions to prevent abuse!

Well, to be exact, it’s only 48.

Number 40 happens to be the clause for waivers.

We don’t precisely know what criteria will be applied, but it certainly looks like outfitters can get a number of these crucial provisions waived.

Nobody will ever know until the deal is done.

It’s all between the individual outfitter and the lands branch. Remember no YESAA required.

According to the branch, existing cabins within the 30 metres public access water setback will get exactly that: a waiver.

For a little contrast, just bear in mind what the Yukon usually does with informally built cabins out in the bush.

They burn them down. Period!

Last fall, Lone Wolf had no existing cabins within the 30 metres public access setback at its Big Salmon base camp yet.

We can only hope he hasn’t sent a building crew in since.

Even so, according to the branch, this is still no guarantee that he won’t get the land all the way down to the water. Contrary, of course, to the government’s own outfitters land lease policy, which clearly addresses and protects the 30-metre setback for public access.

By the way, we thought the 30 metres is a right of the public, not a privilege.

We suggest the lands branch put the land lease applications of Lone Wolf on hold.

We also request the YESAA assessment process be applied.

YESAA was created for very good reasons. It’s a neutral process conducted at arm’s length from governments and provides a high level of transparency.

Only an open and above-board process will assure the Yukon public that no “self-assessments” by government departments are made.

Further, we need to be certain that ministers are not personally involved in approving outfitter land leases. Regulating land use for big game hunting outfits is undoubtedly a big undertaking.

We urge Lang to immediately advise the lands branch to involve YESAB in the outfitter land lease applications, providing a transparent and fair process.

Astrid and Felix Vogt