The Yukon Fish and Game Association says it has serious concerns about three moose management-related proposals the Yukon government has put forward to the Yukon Fish and Wildlife Management Board.
In an interview Feb. 20, the association’s executive director, Eric Schroff, said he believes there’s been a lack of transparency and communication surrounding how the government came up with the proposals, and why they’re necessary.
“Currently, the association is recommending to our members that we vote against or make our concerns known during the public review process for the first three proposals … We have some real concerns on how the recommendations were constructed, how they’ve been presented to us and what the implications are for licenced hunters in Yukon going forward,” Schroff said.
The three proposals have been contentious since the Yukon government put them to the board last year as part of a once-every-two-year process to propose Wildlife Act-related regulations, to the point that the board’s extended the public review period for them to April 11.
The first proposal relates to the Yukon government taking a broader “adaptive management” approach to moose in the territory, and would allow the government to use more moose harvest management tools beyond varying permit availability or opening and closing subzones.
It would also change how quickly moose management decisions are made. Under the proposed system, instead of waiting to approach the Yukon Fish and Wildlife Management Board during its normal proposal intake period, anyone could approach the board or a local renewable resource council at any time with a moose management concern. The board or council would then make a recommendation to the Yukon’s environment minister, and a management tool could be implemented to address the issue as soon as the minister signs off on it.
The tools, which are a separate package, could include varying harvest dates, setting antler configuration requirements or limiting off-road vehicle use in certain areas.
Currently, implementing a new tool would require the creation of a piece of legislation every time, which could take up to four years become law, according to a Yukon government proposal summary.
The other two proposals related to ensuring the sustainable licenced harvest of moose in the South Canol and Sifton-Miners Range management units.
The Yukon government is proposing to either put both management units on permit, or to put them on permit with the possibility of also further limiting harvest based on antler configuration and restricting off-road vehicle use.
Schroff said that while the Yukon Fish and Game Association supports the idea of the Yukon government having more moose management tools at its disposal, its concerned that the first proposal would result in a significant change to how it makes wildlife management decisions.
That the current process takes time before decisions are implemented, Schroff said, is actually an advantage.
“It’s a system that has a real opportunity for considered second thought,” he said. “… Wildlife populations in general don’t go through rapid increases or dramatic declines in a one-year basis, it’s a gradual process and having a system that is also gradual and moderated really helps to keep knee-jerk wildlife management decisions from being made.”
Allowing for rapid changes or restrictions to be imposed could have “really significant effects” on hunters, he explained, many of whom make hunting plans two to three years in advance.
The association’s concerns about the other two proposals are related to the information — or lack thereof — about moose populations and harvest numbers in the two management units, Schroff said.
The Yukon government last did a survey of moose in the South Canol about a decade ago, he pointed out, but was still basing its current sustainable harvest estimates on that data.
“We really think there needs to be more current surveys done before major changes are made to regulation,” he said, adding that licenced hunter harvest in the South Canol has also remained “fairly constant” over the years.
“Generally, that’s an indicator of a relatively constant moose population, or availability of bulls,” Schroff said. “If that’s the case, what’s the urgency to make that change to a permit hunt at this point in time based on a survey that’s almost 10 years old?”
The same issue exists for the Sifton-Miners Range.
“We don’t have really good information on what the moose population is in that area and what the movement of moose in and out of that area really looks like,” he said. “We think maybe there are opportunities to do something other than permit hunting there, such as the threshold hunt they’ve been using in Faro for years, but again, there was a lack of discussion about it.”
Schroff emphasized that the association was happy to work with the Yukon government, but that more open discussions are needed to understand the rational behind the proposals.
“In general, we want to work well with everybody,” he said. “We think the system, if we all sit down at the table and we have conversations … we think we can get to better decisions and better proposals going to the Fish and Wildlife Management Board.”
In an email, Environment Yukon spokesperson Megan Foreman said no one was available for comment, but wrote that the department “welcomes” the Yukon Fish and Wildlife Management Board’s decision to extend the public review period on the moose proposals.
“We acknowledge that the Yukon Fish and Game Association has indicated that they do not support the proposals,” she wrote. “This public review period is an important mechanism for them to share their views with the Board.”
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