Need for government quota on caribou harvest debated in final day of hearing on Lake Colville


Lawyers representing the territorial government argued that the Minister of the Environment was correct in his decision to maintain a caribou harvest limit at Colville Lake in the Northwest Territories.

Colville Lake is challenging the territory’s decision to set a quota on the number of Bluenose West caribou that can be harvested each year in its traditional territory.

The community – represented by lawyers from the Colville Lake Renewable Resources Council, the Behdzi Ahda First Nation and the Ayoni Keh Land Corporation – wants to see a plan that would do away with the government’s tag and quota system, known as the total allowable harvest for the Bluenose West caribou herd. .

In its place, Lake Colville would preserve the herd with a plan based on cultural and traditional values ​​and knowledge.

Environment and Natural Resources Minister Shane Thompson rejected the idea of ​​removing the harvest limit.

The hearing lasted three days in the Supreme Court of the Northwest Territories at the Yellowknife courthouse. It ended Thursday with submissions from Maren Zimmer and Kyle Ereaux representing the government.

Lawyers for the territory pointed to the provisions of the Sahtú Dene and Metis Comprehensive Land Claim that state harvest limits would be implemented “if necessary for conservation”.

Zimmer said the agreement’s direct reference to boundaries, along with a clause stating that the government has “ultimate jurisdiction over the management of wildlife and wildlife habitat”, means the minister was within his authority. to maintain harvest limits and did not violate the land claim.

Ereaux added that the minister’s use of “for the time being” in his decision indicates that he is open to future discussions at a later date.

He told the court that the status quo would remain in place for now, but that Thompson supported the idea of ​​community-managed conservation and was open to collaborating on a plan moving forward.

Community plan denies need for harvest limits: plaintiff lawyer

Lawyer Senwung Luk, one of the four plaintiffs’ lawyers, emphasized the “if necessary” section of the agreement. In his response to land attorneys, he said the community’s proposed plan would manage caribou populations without the need for a total allowable harvest.

Luk said harvest limits aren’t working, and despite the total allowable harvest coming into effect in 2008, the Bluenose West caribou herd is still in decline. He said the community management plan is consistent with local knowledge and Dene law. It’s not “an experiment” or “a shot in the dark,” Luk said, objecting to language used by the Inuvialuit Game Council in court Wednesday.

He said conservation goes beyond setting a number on how many animals can be killed. It is a question of observing the seasons and the behavior of the herds.

Luk said that rather than maintaining quantities, “it’s more important to teach young hunters”, that, for example, harvesting an animal that is alone in cold weather, could mean that animal is the only one who knows where. to stock up in winter and would have an impact on livelihoods. of the herd, despite the presence of a single tag.

“If it doesn’t work…we end up with the app,” he said, emphasizing the importance of implementing a community-supported plan.

Judge Andrew Mahar is presiding over the case.

He said he “[didn’t] even want to hazard a guess,” as to when he would make his decision.

“I will do my best,” he said.

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