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Leaders shoot the breeze on conservation

Hunters are still free to blast caribou from the side of the Dempster Highway while Premier Dennis Fentie and First Nations chiefs work on a…

Hunters are still free to blast caribou from the side of the Dempster Highway while Premier Dennis Fentie and First Nations chiefs work on a conservation plan.

Fentie, Vuntut Gwich’in chief Joe Linklater, Tr’ondek Hwech’in chief Darren Taylor, and Na-cho Nyak Dun chief Simon Mervyn discussed conservation and the hunting restrictions during a two-hour dinner at the Edgewater Hotel on Tuesday night.

The closed-door meeting began at 7 p.m.

Emerging from the meeting, the leaders conceded the 500-metre no-hunting corridor and one-week moratorium on hunting herd leaders will not be enforced, but added their respective governments will work together on a management strategy.

“We had a very good discussion,” said Fentie.

“Tonight we agreed that our purpose and objective here must be the conservation of the herd.

“We agree that the protocol that has been developed with the Porcupine Caribou Management Board is to proceed. The protocol is an arrangement of the First Nations impacted, the government of Canada and the government of Yukon.”

Data will be compiled by the Porcupine Caribou Management Board and will be distributed to all levels of government, said Fentie.

After that, an action plan will be developed, he said.

But the hunting restrictions will not be enforced.

“I’m not a biologist,” he said. “What we’ve done in the past is implement recommendations of the board.

“That’s the past, today we’re taking a major step forward to taking measures toward conservation.

“That’s more than a couple of regulations that we’ve implemented in the past.”

There will be an increased government presence on the Dempster this season, which includes a station on the Yukon/NWT border, and any hunter who uses their gun in a dangerous manner will be grabbed by the long arm of the law, he said.

“We will enforce all matters of safety for the travelling public.

“That means there will be enforcement of shooting across the highway, of shooting out of vehicles.”

The Vuntut Gwich’in will support the new conservation efforts, said Linklater following the meeting.

“We won’t predetermine any of these processes yet. I feel what could have been a very combative situation, a very opposing situation turned out very well and very positive.”

Hopefully hunters have a better understanding of the danger shooting from the highway poses to people and the herd, said Linklater.

“Obviously the 500-metre corridor cannot be reinstated simply because of the position that has been taken now.

“We’re hoping this situation that has been created is much better information to the public in that there are concerns around the herd.”

The talks were positive for his government as well, said Taylor.

“It was productive. I can’t speak too much further on the details.

“We did agree on a process, which I think we’re all pleased with.”

Mervyn said he preferred not to comment.