People in Colville Lake say the N.W.T. government has blindsided the community with new and unwelcome rules for hunting caribou from the Bluenose-West herd.
On March 8, the N.W.T. Department of Environment and Natural Resources (ENR) wrote groups in both Colville Lake and Fort Good Hope about the changes, which include:
- a requirement to have tags, which were mailed out to each community
- a limit of 350 animals that can be hunted from the herd, per year, with 200 tags going to Colville Lake.
The territorial government has not responded to calls for an interview.
The government's letter says the harvest restrictions came at the recommendation of the Sahtu Renewable Resources Board, and that Colville Lake has requested tags.
But Wilbert Kochon, a former president of the Colville Lake Land Corporation and current advisor to the band, says otherwise.
"We never wanted a tag system," he said.
Instead, the community wants to keep regulating its own hunters.
"When you enforce it, that's when the fighting starts," said Kochon.
Leaders from across the Sahtu region met in Colville Lake for three days last week, partly to discuss the new hunting restrictions.
Kochon says the Sahtu Secretariat plans to write Environment Minister Michael Miltenberger in opposition to the changes.
Asked if hunters in Colville Lake are using the tags, Kochon said, "Why would they use it when they were never consulted?"
Ryan Kochon, Colville Lake's acting chief, says the band plans to mail back the tags to the government.
The Bluenose-West restrictions are latest in a series of new rules for hunting barren-ground caribou recently introduced by the territorial government.
In December, the government stopped issuing tags for Bathurst caribou, except for a very limited number reserved for aboriginal groups who must request the tags from the government and demonstrate that the caribou will be harvested for "ceremonial" purposes. The Tlicho Government has expressed concerns about the latter rule.
The government also limited the annual harvest of Bluenose-East caribou to 1,800 animals. Previously, aboriginal groups had agreed to a voluntary limit of 2,800 animals.