After years of defending B.C.’s controversial grizzly trophy hunt, the BC Liberals announced last week that they plan to end the hunt in the Great Bear Rainforest.
It is a stunning reversal of policy for the BC Liberals, as they have long maintained the hunt is sustainable based on their “best available science.”
Premier Christy’s Clark’s Liberals made the promise as they unveiled a new platform for the May 9 provincial election that promised to protect healthy and sustainable wildlife populations.
“We must operate on the principle of conservation first in order to pass on B.C.’s natural splendour so future generations can enjoy it,” said the Liberal platform. “Today’s BC Liberals will work with the Coastal First Nations towards the elimination of the grizzly bear hunt in the Great Bear Rainforest, continuing with the science based approach to the bear hunt elsewhere in the province.”
The Coastal First Nations declared a ban on trophy hunting in their traditional territory in 2012, something the province has repeatedly refused to officially acknowledge, until last week.
“We know that many First Nations have a deep connection to the land, and also use wildlife for food, social and ceremonial uses. Our hunting, trapping and angling regulations are designed to ensure species conservation and to maintain healthy wildlife populations for use,” said the platform.
However, it’s unclear whether this ban extends through the entire Great Bear Rainforest, or if it’s limited to Coastal First Nations territory.
Bella Coola Valley Tourism was happy with the announcement, having recently declared their support of the Coastal First Nations ban.
“Bella Coola Valley Tourism welcomes Christy Clark’s announcement to phase-out trophy hunting of grizzly bears,” said BCVT President, Tom Hermance. “Killing bears for sport is harmful to BC’s image as a world-class tourist destination. Regardless of the phase-out time frame, BCVT is committed in supporting the First Nation’s trophy ban. Bears are worth more to our economy alive than dead.”
Coastal First Nations spokesperson and Kitasoo Band Chief Councillor Douglas Neasloss said he was glad to see the BC Liberals’ change in position. Neasloss and his colleagues have worked together for years as part of the Coastal Guardian Watchmen to confront trophy hunters looking for bears on their traditional territory.
“This is long overdue,” he said. “The bear hunt is very important for us to end in the Great Bear Rainforest. I’ve been on this file for the last 20 years, so I’m really proud that the Liberals have changed their position and are in talks to put it to an end. This is about more than the bear hunt. It’s about survival for remote communities; protecting the Great Bear Rainforest, and how we’re trying to save some of the industries like tourism that create jobs for the local community.”
Neasloss said the Coastal First Nations have engaged in long-term discussions with the province for years over the topic, which has seen over 90 percent of British Columbians issue their support for an all-out ban on the practice.
Neasloss said details about how and when the hunt will be eliminated in the Great Bear are still being worked out, but that the Coastal First Nations were still in talks with government to finalize the details. The Coastal First Nations has been advocating for years to end the hunt, saying bears alive in their territory are worth millions more in tourism dollars than a one-time trophy hunt.
The NDP and the Green Party have both expressed their intention to ban the hunt if elected.