A local outfitter challenging the Yukon government in court over the decision to reduce their caribou quota to zero is asking for the release of documentation explaining the decision.
Yukon Big Game Outfitters Ltd. filed a petition to the Yukon Supreme Court on Oct. 2, asking for a court order to reverse the zero-quota for the 2019-20 and 2020-21 seasons.
Appearing in court via video on Jan. 27, the outfitter’s counsel Vincent Larochelle asked for further clarity about what led to the quota decision.
Larochelle informed the court he was seeking documentation revealing the consultations with Ross River Dena Council that influenced the allowed quota.
“Anything that’s relevant should be produced,” Larochelle said, adding that the quota decision sets a significant precedent affecting outfitters across the territory.
The outfitter’s Oct. 9 petition alleges that the decision was unreasonable.
In April 2012, the outfitter was granted a quota of seven caribou per year for three years.
In 2015-16, seven caribou were granted, but a three-year quota was refused, as the Yukon government advised it needed to consult with the Ross River Dena Council. That seven caribou quota was maintained each individual year in 2016-17, 2017-18 and 2018-19.
The petition decried this process, saying that “multi-year quotas are essential for outfitting businesses, as hunts will often be booked years in advance, and deposits are taken in advance of such hunts.”
In July 2018, the outfitter was advised the quota would be zero until consultations took place with the Ross River Dena Council.
Elaine Cairns, the lawyer for the Yukon government, said on Jan. 27 that Environment Minister Pauline Frost hadn’t issued any permits for caribou hunting since 2018. She added that the outfitter received nearly a year’s notice that the quota would be zero for the following season.
Surveying and conservation concerns had been expressed to the outfitter in July 2018. Cairns said that caribou numbers in the Yukon have raised concern in recent years.
“The current harvest management approach hadn’t been sufficient to stabilize the herd … (and) the Ross River Dena Council had expressed concern,” Cairns said.
The outfitter’s initial objection to the quota triggered a hearing before a conservation review board, after which Frost had “significant discretion” to make a final decision on the quota under the Wildlife Act. The minister chose to confirm the quota of zero caribou, Cairns explained.
Cairns added the government “strongly disputes” that the outfitter was left in the dark about what led to the caribou decision.
Larochelle had said earlier that clarity about what led to the decision is “the main crux” of the argument.
Chief Justice Suzanne Duncan is expected to make a decision regarding which documents should be ordered for release, if any, before the case goes forward to substantive application.
Contact Gabrielle Plonka at firstname.lastname@example.org