Residents of the Northwest Territories who want to give input on the first wave of new hunting regulations need to do so soon before the new NWT Wildlife Act comes into effect this November.
The department of Environment and Natural Resources (ENR) is giving its “last push” of consultation on Phase 1 of the proposed new wildlife regulations for the NWT, touring communities over the next week to hear concerns and suggestions for changes before the rules go into writing.
“We want to hear how the regulations can be improved,” said Rob Gau, manager of biodiversity conservation with the wildlife division of ENR.
Gau and South Slave regional superintendent Troy Ellsworth were on-hand in Fort Smith last Wednesday evening to take feedback on the proposed regulations, which impact both Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal harvesters.
Those regulations focus solely on the immediate changes required to implement the new act – ones that remove inconsistency and that support safe, sustainable harvesting.
While the discussions focused on Phase 1, both Gau and Ellsworth intentionally left the group of hunters thinking about new concepts that will be approached during the second phase of work, which will deal with harvester reporting and training, regulating commercial harvesting activities, control of alien species and additional zones or seasons for new animals.
“We’re trying to lead people into thinking about questions that will be asked in the future, so they can look up the legislation,” Ellsworth said. “Anything we can get is a bonus at this time that helps for discussion down the road.”
Gau said there is no time limit for the second and third phases of work, which will require another intense round of consultation with the public.
“This doesn’t end after November,” he said. “We have a lot of work left to do.”
While it is too early to talk about what they’ve heard across the NWT, Gau said the public is always interested in talking about what constitutes meat wastage, for which new regulations impact both Aboriginal and resident harvesters.
New minimum requirements lay out what parts would be considered wastage if left behind. For big game, the proposed regulations state that leaving behind backstraps, hindquarters and front quarters above the knee, tenderloins and neck meat would be an offense.
“We’re using a minimum standard approach because everyone has a different idea about what parts are food,” Gau said. “But we encourage all harvesters to use all parts, including the heart, the head.”
Still, several attendees at the meeting said they felt that list was not long enough.
“There’s no excuse not to bring the ribs and the brisket home,” said Norman Dievert, a resident hunter from Fort Smith. “This is a southern community compared to most, and we never have problems. You bring the head, heart, liver, the kidneys, and you always find a place for it to go.”
Changes for resident hunters
Under the current legislation, non-Aboriginal people wanting to hunt in the NWT are required to meet a minimum residency requirement of two years. The new act lessens that to 12 consecutive months – something resident hunters have said is a positive.
While resident hunters are not eligible for a General Hunting Licence (GHL) under the new act, which requires an Aboriginal or treaty harvesting right, it is possible for them to obtain a one-year Special Harvesters Licence (SHL) from Aboriginal rights holders.
A local harvesting committee, be it a Métis council, First Nation band, or hunter and trapper association, may choose to extend their harvesting right to a non-rights holder to harvest in their traditional area. Though this was previously the case with Special GHLs, which will no longer exist under the new act, the new SHLs require permission from only one group when it comes to overlapping traditional territories. Previously, harvesters were required to get permission from all implicated Aboriginal governments.
Resident hunters are also subject to minimum standards for calibre, though what those standards will amount to is still under discussion. The proposed minimum for bison hunting, for example, is currently a 0.30 calibre, but hunters at Wednesday’s meeting worried that wasn’t large enough, and could result in wounded animals or endangered human lives.
“Hunters can get trampled to death,” said Norm’s son, Brent Dievert, who advised using a .308 or larger.
Other suggestions included employing a standard for muzzle energy or using the grain of a bullet instead. Gau said the solution might be to come up with a combination.
“The challenge is how to make it easier for a resource officer to determine what’s okay,” he said.
Changes for Aboriginal harvesters
Aboriginal harvesters no longer need a GHL to exercise their treaty or Aboriginal rights in their traditional or treaty area, but are required to carry and show identification proving their right to harvest. The department is still working with Aboriginal groups to determine acceptable types of ID.
Land claims providing certain First Nations exclusive rights to harvest in some areas mean anyone not recognized as having a right to harvest there will need permission. Apart from those areas, Aboriginal harvesters can still get GHLs to harvest in the rest of the NWT.
Harvesting limits for the conservation of certain species still exist, and impact the harvest of barren-ground caribou, grizzly bears, muskox, polar bears and wood bison. Other seasons and limits do not apply to Aboriginal harvesters.
Aboriginal people without traditional harvesting rights in the NWT still require a licence to hunt in the NWT and must follow seasons, bag limits and other existing conditions.
When it comes to possession of wild meat or parts, it must be lawfully harvested, permitted for possession or gifted through a new process that requires receipts be given for all meat weighing over 5 kg.
“It doesn’t matter the amount, you just have to ID or label it with the person who gave you the meat, their licence number, name, the date, species and weight of the package,” Gau said.
A plain language version of the new Wildlife Act and proposed regulation changes can be found online at http://www.enr.gov.nt.ca/programs/wildlife/new-wildlife-act