minister responds to caribou management recommendations

In the winter of 2006, the Porcupine Caribou Management Board engaged in a public consultation to review proposed regulatory and non-regulatory…

In the winter of 2006, the Porcupine Caribou Management Board engaged in a public consultation to review proposed regulatory and non-regulatory recommendations to Government of Yukon’s minister of Environment.

In preparing its recommendations to the minister, the board sought public input. The board received a significant number of responses and is grateful to all participants for their interest and involvement in the proposed regulation changes.

The recommendations were 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 also 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.

The minister conducted the government-to-government consultation, as he is required to do. Based on the consultation, he accepted some of the recommendations but not others.

In review, the board’s first recommendation was that the Government of Yukon should enforce mandatory use of blaze-orange safety vests or jackets by all hunters year-round in all Dempster Highway subzones within the Yukon.

The same recommendation was made to the Government of Northwest Territories.

This recommendation addressed 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 board’s safety campaign.

The board’s second recommendation was that the governments of Yukon the Northwest Territories work with a sub-committee of the board, in partnership with all user groups, to develop and implement educational programs incorporating traditional knowledge and cultural values.

This recommendation was intended to improve hunter safety and reduce caribou harassment, meat wastage and wounding loss.

These educational programs also encouraged a voluntary hunting ban of mature bulls from October 10 until November 1 each year. It was 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 much 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 Government of Yukon’s HEED and First Nation education programs. 

The board also renewed recommendations previously made to the Minister.

The management 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 had accepted this recommendation before, but he had not yet undertaken the government-to-government consultations.

In May of 2006, the Yukon’s minister of Environment advised the board that he accepted the recommendations and committed to undertaking the appropriate government-to-government consultations. On April 30, the minister wrote the management board with the results of his consultations.

Essentially, the minister replied that he received mixed support from the affected First Nations and Inuvialuit. Thus, he would not proceed with a regulation requiring use of blaze-orange safety vests or with the second hunting closure along the Dempster Highway.

In addition, the minister indicated that he hoped that alternative solutions, or a broader support for the two proposed regulations, will come out of the Harvest Management Strategy.

He went on to say that if the Harvest Management Strategy fails to address the conservation and safety concerns, then he would be prepared to implement measures on an emergency basis or on a long-term basis.

Although the board is disappointed that its recommendations were not accepted, the it agrees with the minister that the Harvest Management Strategy is vital to the conservation of the herd.

The board also agrees that any regulations can potentially affect each user group differently, and that each user group has its own perspective.

Thus, the Harvest Management Strategy, by bringing all parties together to discuss in person conservation concerns and potential, will indeed be the most effective way to ensure the caribou and the users can thrive.

It is important to note that the minister had committed to the board recommendation for a Porcupine caribou herd education program that incorporates traditional knowledge and cultural values, and this support continues.

Finally, the board recognizes the minister’s commitment to supporting the Harvest Management Strategy. Unlike the management board regulation consultation process, in which all parties submit their comments only to the management board, the strategy will allow parties to hear from each other and respond to each other’s concerns.

Thus, this strategy is truly the best way to ensure the users can work together to identify their own recommendations.

Development of the Harvest Management Strategy is well underway. Last October, more 60 participants representing all governments, the caribou First Nations user groups and other interested organizations met in Inuvik.

There, they spent four days discussing the status of the herd and how to manage harvest in a way that best ensures harvesting can continue for generations to come.

Now, a working group is putting together a draft Harvest Management Plan based on what they heard. They will take that draft plan to the community leaders for further feedback.

In the meantime, the board encourages all harvesters to hunt safely and with the greatest respect for the herd. Submitted by the Porcupine caribou management board

For more information, please contact Deana Lemke at the Porcupine Caribou Management Board at 633-4780 or visit our website at  http://www.taiga.net/pcmb

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