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A cow moose swims across a bay near Enodah Trout Rock Lodge. The territorial is taking another crack a rejigging its 34-year-old Wildlife Act.

Another try for Wildlife Act
MLAs cautiously optimistic new bill more than 10 years in the making finally has it right

Danielle Sachs
Northern News Services
Published Monday, June 18, 2012

SOMBA K'E/YELLOWKNIFE
Last year Weledeh MLA Bob Bromley railed against "overly complex and divisive" changes to the NWT Wildlife Act; for now he remains cautiously optimistic as Environment Minister Michael Miltenberger tries yet again to push through revamped legislation more than 10 years in the making.

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Proposed New Wildlife Act
  • Recognizes the hunting traditions of non
  • aboriginal groups
  • Minister has to speak with resident hunter groups to develop harvester training courses
  • Environment minister cannot define a conservation area without consulting cabinet
  • Youth under 18 can hunt with a licensed adult but contribute to the adult hunter's tags
  • A professional guide can kill a wounded animal without being asked by the client hunter
Source: Department of Environment and Natural resources -

"It's an act the territorial government has been trying to push forward for more than 10 years, and so far no one has been satisfied," said Bromley, Friday.

One of the major problems Bromley identified last year as MLAs prepared to vote on the bill was the "uneven and unfair consulting" and the lack of support for resident hunting groups to meaningfully contribute to it. Sensing he didn't have the votes to get it passed, Miltenberger withdrew the proposed legislation on the last day of session in August 2011 as the 16th assembly drew to a close before heading into the fall territorial election.

Bromley said there are life-long non-aboriginal NWT residents who have been hunting for generations, and yet were not consulted with the previous bill.

"It's certainly undemocratic," he said.

"The government over the years has spent millions of taxpayers dollars consulting with aboriginal groups but virtually none talking to non-aboriginal groups."

On Thursday, the Department of Environment and Natural Resources held a sparsely attended open house to give Yellowknifers their first look at the new bill, which is purportedly softer than the previous proposed legislation.

One controversial clause, that would have given the environment minister the sole power to created so-called "conservation areas" and potentially shut down oil, gas and mineral exploration has now been changed to put the decision in the hands of the entire cabinet.

"There's definitely a softening of the power of one, which is good to see," said Daryl Dolynny, MLA for Range Lake.

If the bill is passed, the environment minister must also now talk to resident hunter groups when developing harvester training courses.

"The minister did form a group of stakeholders of non-aboriginal groups which is a good step forward," said Bromley.

Martin Knutson, president of the NWT Wildlife Federation, who attended the open house, said his group feels the legislation is still far too political, pitting aboriginal versus non-aboriginal hunters.

"This should be a wildlife management tool and not a political document," he said.

"One of the major issues is with ENR's understanding of land claims, they're giving them too much power."

Supporters of a new Wildlife Act first adopted in 1978 say the current legislation is antiquated and doesn't reflect the modern realities of a territory moving toward devolution from the federal government. But Bromley said the government needs to be careful it doesn't swamp residents in page after page of incomprehensible legalese.

"Groups such as sport hunters, outfitters and tourism operators that use wildlife as an attraction need to be able to comment intelligently on it," said Bromley.

It's expected the rewritten bill will be introduced to MLAs when the legislative assembly reconvenes in October. The public has until June 30 to submit comments on the bill to the Department of Environment and Natural Resources.

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