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Tame turnout for Wildlife Act

Lots to debate but few debaters

Lynn Lau
Northern News Services

Inuvik (Nov 19/01) - A meeting to discuss proposed changes to wildlife laws failed to draw much interest earlier this month. Only seven people showed up Nov. 5 for the Resources, Wildlife and Economic Development discussion on the new Species at Risk legislation and the revised Wildlife Act.

"I was hoping to have more people," said wildlife officer Ian Ellsworth. His department tacked flyers around town and placed ads on the radio and community cable station. "It's not just here, it's right across the Territories -- I think they're having trouble getting people to the meetings."

Still Ellsworth said the attendance was up from two years ago, when the first round of consultations drew only two people in Inuvik.

Hunter Gerry Kisoun said the timing of the meeting could have been a factor, since people are busy on the land now the rivers are just frozen enough to support snowmobiles. "There's a number of them that are out on the land since it's right after the freeze up, so maybe they didn't hear about it or something."

The hunters who did show up had lots to say about the draft laws. Residency requirements, hunter training and reporting rules were all lively topics.

Several people said the current two-year residency requirement the longest of any Canadian jurisdiction should be shortened. "I live here, I work here and I contribute to the economy," said Mark Simms, a new resident from Newfoundland. "I'm a hunter, but I have to wait two years. Two years to have to wait is ridiculous."

On the topic of hunter training, participants supported the idea, but stressed that people should be given an opportunity to opt out of training if they already possess the necessary skills and knowledge. "Education is good," said Kisoun. "I think we should do something with all hunters. You don't have to hit all of them, but you do hear lots of stories out there sometimes."

There was also support for mandatory reporting of wildlife harvests. Currently, non-resident hunters are required to report what they kill, but resident hunters are not. Instead, resident hunters are asked to fill out voluntary surveys. With voluntary reporting, it has been difficult for wildlife managers to get an accurate estimate of harvest levels.

"Those resources are critical for everybody, for the whole ecosystem," said hunter Joey Amos. "I would like everyone who is harvesting to be reporting. It's critical that somebody knows what's being taken out." The draft legislation has been going through the second phase of consultations throughout the Northwest Territories. In the Mackenzie and Beaufort Delta communities, the panels wrapped up recently. Ellsworth was in Sachs Harbour at the end of October, and in Paulatuuq earlier this month for similar meetings.

In Sachs Harbour, about 20 people showed up. Residents there expressed concern that the current rules are too strict to accommodate the appropriate disposal of meat ends and poorer cuts from the commercial muskox harvest. Currently, it is illegal to feed meat from big game to domestic animals, including sled dogs