Comments made by MLA Donna Barnett in a recent Williams Lake Tribune has drawn the ire of the Williams Lake Sportsmen’s Association and the British Columbia Wildlife Federation.
Barnett was commenting on the adjustments made recently to the controversial wildlife allocation splits which determine harvest percentages for guide outfitters and resident hunters, as well as First Nations, and said no adjustments were made in Region 5 because there were no concerns expressed about the splits in our area.
Barnett, who was sitting in the legislature at the time of the comments, said if she mis-spoke, it certainly wasn’t her intent.
She has since clarified there were several complaints made to her regarding the wildlife allocation splits by resident hunters and she forwarded all those concerns to Steve Thompson, Minister of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations, before he made the adjustments to the splits.
“I took every e-mail, every phone call, every petition and concern to the minister,” Barnett said.
“[But] I do not make the decisions on allocations.”
Williams Lake Sportsmen’s Association President, hunter and sporting goods store owner Al Bush said he has concerns with the allocation split across the province, including Region 5.
“We went to her and told her there was a problem. Our concerns, we hoped, were heard,” said Bush, who met with Barnett prior to the adjustment.
“Our concerns were the reduced allocations for the B.C. resident hunters … for the lost hunting opportunities, not only in our region, but as hunters we go all over the province.”
BSWF President George Wilson also called Barnett out on the comments in a letter cc’d to the Tribune.
Wilson wrote the BCWF has been consistently opposed to new Wildlife Allocation Policy as a whole.
“While several regional examples were used to illustrate potential negative consequences for resident hunters, BCWF has been clear that our opposition to the new policy is not constrained to any specific region or wildlife species and applies to all of B.C.”
Wilson noted that the Lone Butte Rod and Gun Club has independently organized a peaceful rally to speak out against the new policy scheduled for Saturday, Feb. 28.
Barnett said the government did work with the BCWF to determine the changes to allocation splits of most concern, noting the bigger problem is the declining moose numbers.
“We have to work together to increase the population of animals –– that’s the best we can do.”
In a separate interview with the Tribune, area guide outfitter Stu Maitland expressed his frustration in what he considers a BCWF campaign against the guiding industry, noting the new split was intended to bring harvest numbers back in alignment from previous years to keep struggling guide outfitting businesses viable.
“They’re telling everyone that we’re taking away from the hunters. We’re the ones who have actually lost,” Maitland said, referring to changes made in 2007.
In the latest allocation split, which has been in negotiations for some time, Maitland said guide outfitters have lost their success factor and also regional allocation in exchange for consistent percentage splits.
“We were willing to take those losses to get certainty.”
Maitland echoed Barnett’s concerns about the declining population of moose, which are the heart of Maitland’s guiding business.
“They can give us all the animal [allocations] they want, if there are no moose out there, it doesn’t matter.”