Grizzly bear population at risk as B.C. Liberal government aligns with trophy hunters
Though Bennett says he speaks for "hunters" as a general group, resident and non-resident subclassifications within the community make such generalizations complicated. There are over 100,000 resident hunters in B.C., and approximately 45,000 of them are members of a conservation organization, the B.C. Wildlife Federation, that often speaks on their behalf.
Non-resident hunters — those who do not live in B.C. and travel here to hunt game — are legally required to hire a professional guide to lead them.
In Mountain Hunter magazine, the GOABC's president, Mark Werner, speaks in glowing terms about Premier Clark and several cabinet ministers from the BC Liberal Party for supporting the guide outfitting industry. He writes:
"Premier Clark is a big supporter of families and rural communities, and she really 'gets' our industry. We will continue to work with the Ministers and Premier Clark on the many issues affecting our industry."
Screenshot of Mountain Hunter magazine
Over the last few years, the Liberal-led government has made a series of changes within the Ministry of Forest, Lands, and Natural Resource Operations that favour the commercial hunting industry, according to critics like Green Party MLA Andrew Weaver.
Up until three years ago, hunting guides and their assistants in B.C. were legally required to be Canadian citizens. Citing a shortage in qualified guides and unnecessary hardship for the hunting industry, this requirement was partially removed – allowing non-Canadians to be hired as assistants.
In 2014, another round of amendments overhauled the guiding industry. Notably, it changed who could purchase guiding territory certificates, which give outfitters the exclusive right to guide within a specified region.
As of April 1, 2015, which marks the start of the next hunting season, guiding territory certificate holders will no longer need to be Canadian. They also won’t even have to be people: guide outfitting businesses in B.C. can now be owned and operated by foreign corporations.
Guide Outfitters' lobby group
The GOABC is taking credit for proposing the changes announced over the last year.
“The Guide Outfitters Association asked for the change,” GOABC executive director Scott Ellis told the Vancouver Observer.
“It legitimizes some of the things that were happening anyway.”
Norm Macdonald, the NDP MLA for the Columbia River – Revelstoke district, says his main concern is that these changes drastically increase the commercialization of the hunting sector in B.C.
“I think that foreign buyers introduce a number of elements that we really have to think about,” Macdonald told the Vancouver Observer.
“B.C. tends to very easily give up control of our public land and not only put it into private hands, but often private hands that are offshore.”
“I’m not sure how allowing corporations on the [guiding territory] certificate commoditizes the backcountry,” he said. “We pushed for this for liability reasons, tax reasons, for lending and borrowing reasons, not for commoditization or anything else.”
Macdonald thinks organizations like the Guide Outfitters Association who donate “huge money” to the Liberal Party of B.C. have disproportionate influence over wildlife management.
“There is no question there is lobbying involved. It’s one of the broader problems for us, so many of these decisions are [made] behind closed doors,” he said.
“A lot of people do lobbying," Ellis countered. "The David Suzuki Foundation does lobbying, in my opinion.”
A key difference between the lobbying efforts of pro-grizzly hunting groups, like the Guide Outfitters Association, and organizations that campaign against it, like the David Suzuki Foundation, is the money involved.