A Yukon government event showing off the territory’s agriculture sector may prove to be short on farmers.
Media have been invited to tour the farm at the Gunnar Nilsson and Mickey Lammers Research Forest on Aug. 30. The invitation says the tour will focus on crop trials and agricultural research underway at the farm. Minister of Energy, Mines and Resources John Streicker will attend and is expected to give a speech.
One group who may not be in the crowd for the minister’s speech are farmers aligned with the Yukon Agricultural Association (YAA) in their conflict with the Yukon Government over the management of elk in the territory. An Aug. 26 press release from the YAA asks farmers invited to the Aug. 30 tour to boycott it.
It states that the YAA has formally declined an invitation from Streicker to attend the tour.
“We have followed the processes, attended the meetings, written letters, and still our membership feels unheard on this issue,” said YAA President Cain Vangel.
“Farmers are losing their livelihood and having their fields devastated by the Takhini River valley elk herd. We need urgent action to keep the elk, introduced to the area by Yukon Government, out of our fields so we can keep our crops and livestock safe.”
Elk were introduced to the Takhini River Valley beginning in the 1950s for the purpose of providing hunting opportunities. A recent survey counted 230 elk in the area. Farmers have complained of damage to crops and fences caused by the herd with one farmer launching a lawsuit against the government over damage caused by the herd.
“The area is ideal elk habitat, but it also serves as the epicenter of Yukon’s agricultural industry. Instead of empowering farmers and hunters to manage the ongoing conflict themselves by discouraging elk from the area, Yukon Government paid out hundreds of thousands of taxpayer dollars to reimburse farmers for the damage, often only a fraction of the true costs of putting up fences or mitigating damage in a field,” YAA’s Aug. 26 request for the boycott reads.
“The government talks a big game about supporting farmers and local agriculture, but at the end of the day, we still have fields full of elk damaged crops,” Vangel added.
“We are urging invited farmers to boycott Yukon Government’s Agricultural Demonstration Day as a show of solidarity, and in hopes that the government will come back to the table with meaningful solutions.”
Bobbie Milnes, the director of the Yukon Government’s Agriculture Branch, said the government recognizes the longstanding conflict between the Takhini Valley elk and farmers. He said they are halfway through a two-year plan to reduce elk population in the area by 40 per cent.
“On Agricultural Demo Day, we come together to share knowledge and best practices, to network, and celebrate local food as well as our farmers who work hard to provide for Yukoners and to ensure our food security. Agriculture is a crucial industry that has grown significantly in recent years,” Milnes said.
“It is important that we support the sector, and we hope that farmers would feel encouraged to be part of this day.”
-With files from Hailey Ritchie.
Contact Jim Elliot at email@example.com