The Porcupine Caribou Management Board recently consulted the public about proposed regulatory and non-regulatory recommendations it wants to submit to the Yukon’s Environment minister.
The board has completed this consultation and forwarded its recommendations to Dennis Fentie.
The response rate was high, and the board is grateful to all participants for their interest and involvement in the proposed regulation changes.
The recommendations are based on extensive input from many parties, and the information was invaluable in the board’s decision-making process.
All the input compiled was not only used to inform the board in its decision-making in this instance, but it will be used to guide the board in future management decisions as well.
With broad participation, the board is confident that its decision-making utilized the best information possible.
Fentie will engage in his own First Nation government-to-government consultation where necessary before a final decision is made.
The board’s first recommendation is that the Yukon government should enforce mandatory use of blaze-orange safety vests or jackets by all hunters year-round in all Dempster Highway subzones in the Yukon.
The same recommendation was made to the government of Northwest Territories.
This recommendation addresses safety concerns related to hunting along the Dempster Highway by elevating hunter awareness of others in the area.
Mandatory use of blaze orange clothing is one part of the Porcupine Caribou Management Board safety campaign.
This recommendation was generally well received, but there were some comments that this regulation should be phased in over time.
After giving those comments due consideration, the board believes it is appropriate to implement this recommendation without delay.
The board, the Yukon and the NWT have encouraged use of blaze-orange safety clothing for several years now.
In co-operation with the board, territorial government staff have distributed orange toques and caps and loaned out orange vests for several years.
Reports indicate that this initiative was well received and successful.
If this recommendation is passed into regulation, hunters will be expected to provide their own safety clothing.
The board also suggested that non-consumptive users should be encouraged to wear blaze orange for their own protection while in the Dempster corridor.
The board’s second recommendation was that the Yukon and the NWT work with a sub-committee of the board, in partnership with all relevant governments and user groups, to develop and implement educational programs incorporating traditional knowledge and cultural values.
This recommendation is intended to improve hunter safety and reduce caribou harassment, meat wastage and wounding loss.
By developing these programs for delivery to all interested groups in the herd’s range in Canada, we will work to ensure all hunters receive a consistent message and clearly understand their responsibilities.
These educational programs will also encourage a voluntary hunting ban of mature bulls from October 10 until November 1 each year.
It is not the board’s intention to have outfitters stop hunting mature bulls during this period.
The proposal regarding a voluntary hunting ban on mature bulls received a lot of support from the First Nations, renewable resource councils and the general public.
A board sub-committee has already begun preparing a draft Porcupine caribou hunter education manual that is designed to be used either as a stand-alone tool or as an optional supplement to existing programs, such as the Yukon’s HEED and First Nation education programs.
The board’s hunter education program will be designed to be adapted for use with the adult population as well as with the youth.
There will be sections specific to licenced resident hunters, First Nation hunters in their settlement areas and First Nation hunters going outside their traditional settlement areas.
This program will explain regulations and best practices and traditional teachings in the Yukon and the NWT.
The board notes that some user communities have well-developed education programs for hunter training, such as the First Hunt Program that Tr’ondek Hwech’in provides.
Proposed recommendations not forwarded to the minister
Based on feedback, the board did not forward two recommendations that were discussed in the consultation process.
While these issues continue to be important, the board intends to address them in an alternative manner.
First, the board proposed the territorial governments limit the hunting season of the Porcupine caribou herd by resident hunters in the Northwest Territories and resident and nonresident hunters
in the Yukon to a three-month period when the herd is within the Dempster Highway subzones.
This proposal, although considered favourable by most First Nations and resource councils, was largely criticized by resident hunters.
In view of the criticism received, and because this might not be an effective conservation measure, the board rescinded this recommendation.
In addition, the board is developing a harvest management strategy with First Nation user groups, resident hunters and other stakeholders. The board will be in a better position to consider the hunting season through this strategy.
Second, the board proposed to recommend that the government reduce the 500-metre no-caribou-hunting corridor (on either side of the Dempster Highway) to three key areas of concentrated hunting activity.
After consultation, the board discovered this recommendation was not well supported by resident hunters or First Nations.
On the contrary, there was strong support to keep the existing no-hunting corridor intact.
Again, the board decided to address the Dempster Highway safety issues through the education programs and the mandatory use of blaze-orange clothing by hunters.
Thus, in balancing the concerns for safety along with concerns for the restriction of aboriginal rights, the board determined it is best to leave the corridor intact for now.
When education efforts prove sufficiently successful, the board will reconsider whether or not the corridor should be removed entirely.
The board also renewed recommendations previously made to the minister.
The board made a recommendation to the then-minister of Environment in June of 2003, and then again in May of 2004, regarding a regulation to split the one-week hunting closure each fall to let the caribou leaders pass.
In some years, as dictated by migration patterns, hunting should not be closed for the entire length of the highway.
Instead, the highway should be divided into north and south sections and those sections should each be closed to hunting for one week when the caribou arrive.
The minister accepted this recommendation, but advised the board that he would wait to consult with the First Nations until the board put forward the present recommendations.
To ensure continuity, the board requested Fentie follow up on this recommendation.
The board worked hard and long to ensure it consulted as broadly as possible and to ensure its recommendations balanced the needs of all interested groups.
Again, the board is grateful for the feedback it received and will continue to use all the information it received during the consultation to guide its management decisions.
Ongoing feedback is always welcome, as that information guides what regulations will next be reviewed in the years to come.
For more information, please visit Porcupine caribou management board website at www.taiga.net/pcmb, or contact Deana Lemke at (867) 633-4780, fax 393-3904 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org
Submitted by the Porcupine Caribou Management Board.
Al Pope is on vacation.