A unilateral First Nations declaration that a bear hunting ban will be “enforced” in the Great Bear Rainforest should have little or no impact in the Bute Inlet region of the central coast adjacent to Campbell River.
Last week Kitasoo/Xaixais Chief Doug Neasloss, a bear-watching guide, said, “Despite years of effort by the Coastal First Nations to find a resolution to this issue with the province this senseless and brutal trophy hunt continues. We will now assume the authority to monitor and enforce a closure of this senseless trophy hunt.”
The area included in this ban extends from Haida Gwaii down the central coast. The most southern limits of the Great Bear Rainforest touch on Bute Inlet, traditional territory of the Campbell River-based Homalco Nation.
But, Homalco band manager Alison Trenholm has told the Mirror, “We are not part of the bear hunting ban.” The Homalco operate a very successful “Bears of Bute” bear watching excursion program.
The announcement that First Nations individuals were prepared to take the law into their own hands has raised alarms that there could be potentially dangerous confrontations this hunting season.
“Our concern is that people without jurisdiction are unilaterally deciding something like this,” said Scott Ellis, executive director of the Guide Outfitters Association of B.C.
Forests and Lands Minister Steve Thomson said, “I’m disappointed in the declaration that they’ve taken.”
He added that it is not clear how First Nations intend to enforce the ban, and “it’s too soon to say exactly how we’re going to respond without more specifics on the actions that they might take.”
Karl Granlund, owner of Granlund Firearms here in Campbell River, said, “I deal strictly with hunters and it is a concern to me what will happen if we end up with a bear hunting ban. What’s next? Everything? That’s what the natives want … everything.”
While Granlund anticipates that the First Nations ban will end up as “a protracted legal battle in the courts,” he is not concerned about a confrontation on the ground.
“The reality is that everyone involved in hunting and guiding adheres to very high standards of integrity and gun safety and they would not engage in any confrontation.”
There was also news following the ban that environmental groups are accelerating their efforts to purchase hunting rights to protect bears and defuse conflicts.
The Raincoast Conservation Foundation now controls hunting in 28,000 square kilometres of the central coast and its latest acquisition of 3,500 square kilometres includes key areas around Princess Royal Island where there is the highest concentration of Kermode or spirit bears.
The certificate purchase, which gives hunting rights in perpetuity, cost about $320,000.
A similar purchase in 2005 of 25,000 square kilometres cost about $1.3 million.
B.C.’s unique Kermode – a black bear that is as white as a polar bear because of a recessive gene – is found only in the Great Bear Rainforest.
Although Kermode bears are protected and cannot legally be shot, it is impossible for hunters to know if a black-coloured black bear has the recessive gene that could produce white offspring.