A pair of elk are viewed through the scope of a rifle in the Yukon. Environment Yukon will be doing a third-party review of its hunting lottery system after it discovered a second error with the data used to run the 2018-19 hunting permit lottery. (Jordon Carey/Submitted)

Environment Yukon to do third-party review of hunting lottery after second error discovered

‘I would hope we get to the bottom of this and come up with a system that all hunters can fully support’

Environment Yukon will be doing a third-party review of its hunting lottery system after it discovered a second error with the data used to run the 2018-19 hunting permit lottery — an error that impacted the weightings of 311 applicants.

The department made the announcement in a press release July 23.

Like the error the department flagged at the beginning of the month that led to it retracting and redrawing all sheep, caribou, moose and goat permits, this second error was also related to weighting. This time, officials discovered that the electronic system used by Environment Yukon to collect lottery applicants’ data failed to properly cross-reference some 2018-19 lottery entries with entries submitted by the same people in previous years.

Weighting essentially determines how many entries an applicant receives when they enter the lottery. Applicants’ weightings correspond with the number of years they’ve unsuccessfully applied for a permit, with first-time applicants receiving a weighting of one. The weighting is then increased to the power of seven to calculate the number of times a hunter’s name is entered into the lottery. The longer hunters are unsuccessful in the lottery, the higher their chances are to get a permit the following year.

In this case, the electronic system failed to recognize that applicants who entered the lottery under slightly different names year-to-year — for example, using “John Doe” one year and “Jonathan Doe” another — were the same person. That meant that, for the 311 affected applicants, they received weightings that only corresponded with the exact name they used to apply for the 2018-19 lottery instead of weightings that took all their previous unsuccessful applications into account.

Although only discovered following the redraw earlier this month, the cross-referencing mistake was present from the beginning of this year’s lottery and also affected the first draw. It impacted the lotteries for all species except Kluane sheep, where weighting is not taken into account.

The department will not be doing another redraw due to the short timeframe before hunting season begins on Aug. 1, and, for the same reason, will also not be reissuing any returned permits. It will be refunding all unsuccessful hunters their application fees, and the 311 hunters affected by the cross-referencing error will be awarded an extra year’s weighting the next time they apply to the lottery.

In a media briefing July 24, deputy environment minister Joe MacGillivray said the department “sincerely apologizes” for the error and that it is organizing an independent, third-party review of how the lottery’s data is collected and processed.

“Many of us here at Environment are hunters ourselves, or we come from families with hunters and we understand how important it is to get out on the land and provide for our families,” he said. “We appreciate how significant an impact these errors have had on our clients and on our fellow stewards. This is why we’ve been thoroughly transparent and as fair as possible throughout this year’s challenges.”

The department is in the midst of a multi-year transition from a manual to electronic system to manage hunting permit lottery data, MacGillivray explained, something, once completed would eliminate the possibility of human error impacting the results.

“But like all transitions of this magnitude, it will take time and we need to work through these challenges so that the process improves,” he said. “Our commitment to our clients and our respect for their trust is also why we’ll be conducting an independent review of all data policies and processes for the (permit hunt authorization) lottery. It’s only through this review that we’ll be able to instill confidence (and) integrity in this annual draw once again.”

The department is still currently preparing the terms of reference for the review, MacGillivray said, and whatever recommendations come out of that review are expected to be implemented by next year’s lottery.

He added that the redrawn lottery results were “more fair” than the first, even with the cross-referencing issue, because the department had corrected for the other error it identified shortly after the first round of permits were issued. That error was related to permit returns and reissuances not being taken into account when calculating weighting. Sixty-one applicants who were successful in the first draw were not in the redraw.

In a phone interview July 24, Gordon Zealand, the Yukon Fish and Game Association’s executive director, said that since the Yukon government’s press release about the second error, he’s heard from “a lot of unhappy people, a lot of frustrated people.”

“(I) can understand that mistakes happen and that’s just part of life, but at the same time, (I) would not have expected it to occur the second time around,” he said, adding that “a number” of the association’s members are also “very upset” that no returned permits will be reissued.

“I would hope we get to the bottom of this and come up with a system that all hunters can fully support and endorse.”

In a press release, Yukon Party MLA Wade Istchenko, who had tabled a motion in May 2017 requesting a third-party audit of the permit hunting system, said he was “pleased” that Environment Minister Pauline Frost had decided to do a review, it was “too little, too late.”

“Hundreds of resident hunters and outfitters were affected by this redraw, and if the minister had only listened to us in the first place and taken action over a year ago, these issues could have been prevented,” he said in the press release.

Contact Jackie Hong at jackie.hong@yukon-news.com

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