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 with Rob Miskosky

Should You Be Concerned?

There are many issues hunters and anglers face in Alberta that are regularly reported on in this magazine. In fact, there are more issues than I care to count. It just becomes too bewildering and leaves one with a sense of frustration.

In my position as publisher and editor of this magazine, and the fact that I and others within this company work closely with our Fish and Wildlife department in regards to the publishing of our hunting, fishing and trapping regulations, we hear it all. Seldom does a day go by without the phone ringing or emails arriving with another concern being laid our way. Many of those concerns should be directed at our Fish and Wildlife department but for one reason or another many outdoorsmen like to bend our ears as opposed to those of government.

And we listen, take notes, and do our best to find the answers... if there are any.

But just what are the issues of most concern to Alberta’s hunters and anglers?

While there are several, the most common concern appears to be with our Métis brethren and the highly unpopular IMHAs that were negotiated by the also unpopular and recently removed Pearl Calahasen.

Many feel that animals such as goats should not be hunted under any new Métis agreement.
Looking back, we can only hope Calahasen regrets the brazen position she took towards concerned outdoorsmen and women. Nobody is bigger than the wildlife in this province or the conservation of same. I hope it was a lesson well-learned for the departed Calahasen and hopefully others who are still trying to lead a small political party against the masses who are trying to protect our valuable fish and wildlife resources.

The recent appointment of the Honourable Ted Morton as our Minister of Sustainable Resource Development comes at a highly favourable time for Alberta’s outdoorsmen and women. Mr. Morton, a hunter himself, has long-opposed the IMHAs and foresees a new agreement being in place by July 1st of this year; an agreement that “strikes a better balance with protection of Alberta’s fisheries and wildlife.”

Our new Minister has renewed hope among the masses that a sensible agreement will be reached similar to that of Powley.

1.   Métis Hunting
2.   Loss of Access
3.   CWD & Game Farming
4.   Animal Rights Activists
5.   Hunter Recruitment
6.   Lack of F&W Funding
7.   Outfitter Allocations
8.   Poaching
9.   ACA
10.   Sunday Hunting

1.   Métis Netting
2.   Commercial fishing
3.   Poaching
4.   Lack of F&W Funding
5.   Loss of Habitat
6.   Fish Size Restrictions
7.   Limits

Information gathered by
Alberta Outdoorsmen magazine.
But the main complaint by Alberta hunters was the lack of restrictions placed on the now defunct IMHAs. Last count (as reported on in the March 2007 instalment of Black and White in this magazine) had 29 sheep, 2 goats, 1 grizzly bear and 2 cougars killed by so-called Métis subsistence hunters. These statistics come from the compulsory registration requirement of these species and may in fact now be higher.

These are the very types of animals many claim should be removed from the species allowed to be harvested under any new agreement. As well as numerous restrictions on what areas year-round hunting should be allowed to take place.

Anglers complain that there are far too many new nets being placed in Alberta lakes where regular angling suffers from strict regulations.

According to Fish and Wildlife statistics, in 2006-2007 there were 658 Métis domestic netting licences issued on 87 different Alberta lakes. Of those 658 licences, only 70 were issued on Métis settlement waters; leaving about 590 licences being used on provincial lakes of which many are classified as collapsed or vulnerable.

The most popular lakes issued domestic licences to Métis include Lesser Slave Lake (67), Lac La Biche (59), Touchwood (32), Calling (32), Utikima (29), Pigeon (24), Utikumasis (22), Snipe (22), North Buck (21) and Cold Lake (20), leaving 77 other lakes also feeling the pressure of netting practices. Albeit, in much smaller numbers. It should be noted, however, that some of these lakes, namely Utikima and Utikumasis, are waters in or adjacent to Métis Settlements.

The number two concern of hunters in Alberta is access to public and private land. Many feel that crown land is being locked up to oil, gas and forestry development, with gates being placed in areas where public access should be allowed. Namely, because it is public land. Others are concerned that farmers are being compensated for animal damage by having haystack protection fences paid for by hunter’s dollars, yet access to hunting is not being allowed. And a major concern is that of our Parks division is trying to create more parks where hunting is not allowed and trying to stop hunting in other parks where hunting is currently allowed. Namely our wildland parks. It has already happened in Kananskis.

Hunters feel that farmers who have haystack protection fences paid for by Fish and Wildlife should be obligated to allow hunting on their property.
The number two concern of anglers in Alberta is commercial fishing. Fish and Wildlife statistics show that 177 licences for commercial fishing were purchased in 2006-2007. Fifty-seven of these licences were given for the Lesser Slave Lake area.

Anglers believe that because of the low number of lakes and restrictive regulations in our province, commercial fishing should be completely shut down.

Third on the list for hunters is chronic wasting disease and game farming. Many believe that the two go hand-in-hand and that in order to eradicate one, so must go the other. It is hard to argue the fact that animals kept in close quarters leads to disease, and considering the efforts our Fish and Wildlife division are undertaking near the Saskatchewan border, and how much further this disease is spreading, why wouldn’t we take precautions now as opposed to later? Manitoba has proven that being proactive rather than reactive, works!

The third main concern of anglers in Alberta is that of poaching. I personally believe that poaching can be curtailed if number four on the list—lack of F&W funding—is addressed. More dollars for our Fish and Wildlife department must surely mean more bodies on the ground undertaking enforcement work. Unfortunately, at the time of this writing I am unable to come up with budget numbers as they have yet to be released.

While it is quite likely that other issues will pop up from time to time—they always do—those on our list appear to be of the utmost importance to Alberta’s hunters and anglers today. We can only hope that several of these concerns can be addressed sooner rather than later.

It appears that the Métis issue will be up first; however, by not allowing other stakeholders into the current discussions, namely our AFGA, we may not be happy with the end result of these negotiations.

And with that, we turn it over to Mr. Morton. We are counting on you sir! ■

For previous Outdoor Pursuits click here.

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