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Tlicho reject hunting ban
Dwindling Bathurst herd numbers not an 'emergency,' says grand chief

Paul Bickford
Northern News Services
Published Monday, November 24, 2014

The Tlicho Government is not buying into the idea that a total ban on hunting is necessary to protect the Bathurst caribou herd.

"After extensive discussion with our technical experts and advisers, we have determined that the data we have been provided does not justify a complete ban," stated Grand Chief Eddie Erasmus in an e-mail response to News/North.

"We recognize that there is a concern for the Bathurst herd, however, this does not constitute an 'emergency.'"

Following a meeting on Nov. 7 with various leaders from around the NWT, Environment and Natural Resources Minister Michael Miltenberger said a total ban is being considered for the Bathurst herd, which has declined to an estimated 15,000 caribou from about 470,000 animals in 1986, based on a reconnaissance survey in June.

There will be another leadership meeting on Nov. 28, at which time a final decision will be reached on whether or not a hunting ban will be issued, said Miltenberger during the NWT Metis Nation annual general assembly in Fort Smith last week.

"At the end of the day next Friday, we will have taken the steps necessary to do what we need to do to protect the herd," he said, adding the department will do everything that's in its power. "And the issue of the harvest will be sorted out."

The meeting will also discuss hunting levels for the Bluenose-East herd.

"A repeat of the GNWT-imposed hunting ban of 2010 will result in a series of charges and enforcement issues against Tlicho through the coming winter."

Currently, harvesting from the Bathurst herd is limited to 300 tags - 150 for the Tlicho and 150 for the Yellowknives Dene First Nation.

Erasmus said the GNWT should work with the Tlicho Government to revise a joint management proposal in light of the June reconnaissance survey and give the Wek'eezhii Renewable Resources Board the information it needs to do its job.

"We need real commitment from the GNWT to increasing the wolf harvest and developing real options for potential sub-management zones," he said, adding co-management requires education and consultation with community members.

"A repeat of the GNWT-imposed hunting ban in 2010 will result in a series of charges and enforcement issues against Tlicho through the coming winter," warned Erasmus.

The Tlicho Government is open to further consideration of precautionary harvest management options, said the grand chief. "But we strongly suggest that effective implementation of any further harvest restrictions must be done with the prior and full collaboration of Wek'eezhii."

After the Nov. 7 meeting, Miltenberger said a hunting limit of between 1,000 and 1,200 caribou from the neighbouring Bluenose-East herd is also being considered.

A 2013 population survey of the Bluenose-East herd indicated it had declined to about 68,000 animals from the more than 100,000 animals estimated during a 2010 survey. A June 2014 reconnaissance survey of the Bluenose-East calving grounds suggested the herd has continued to decline by about 30 per cent.

Hunting of the Bluenose-East herd is governed by a voluntary number of about 2,800 animals set in 2010.

Erasmus said the Tlicho Government "hopes" consensus with the GNWT is possible and is working hard to reach it.

However, he warned that establishing "emergency measures" will potentially destroy much that the Tlicho Government, Wek'eezhii resources board and GNWT have collectively worked on in the past five years.

Erasmus said the Tlicho people have depended on the caribou for their physical, mental and spiritual needs since time immemorial, and the community of Wekweeti was established because it lies in the heart of the Bathurst winter range.

"Asking our people to restrict harvest has had tremendous impacts - culturally, socially and financially," said the grand chief.

"To keep our people from hunting is a form of suppression. By taking our people off the land, and not allowing them to hunt, we are losing our knowledge and the transfer of knowledge to future generations. We are losing our connection to different places and to the land."

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