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Tlicho say they still have 'grave concerns' about caribou plan

The Tlicho and the territorial government have been meeting for months to discuss the latest strategy for protecting the Bathurst caribou herd but the Tlicho say they still have many unanswered questions about the latest plan.

GNWT and the Tlicho have been meeting for months to discuss protecting the Bathurst caribou herd

The location of a mobile conservation area around the the core of the Bathurst caribou herd will be updated weekly and posted on the N.W.T. Department of Environment and Natural Resources website. (ENR)

The Tlicho and the territorial government have been meeting since last summer to discuss the latest strategy for protecting the Bathurst caribou herd but there are still concerns about the government’s plan.

The territorial government has set up a no-hunting zone that moves with the core of the herd.

But Tlicho Grand Chief Eddie Erasmus said there are still outstanding issues.

“We still have unanswered questions," he said. "There are still aspects of the plan that the Tlicho have grave concerns about.”

That includes how the mobile zone will work.

“How do you monitor a moving zone? Next week it will be a different area. The week after, it will be a different area," he said. "How does the public, the general public, know exactly where it is?”

Eddie Erasmus, Grand Chief of the Tlicho government, says he hopes to resolves concerns at the next meeting with the territorial government. (CBC)

The territorial government said it is tracking the herd's core with collars and will put out weekly updates on the location of the protected zone. It committed to updating aboriginal governments and renewable resource boards, as well as posting the location on the Environment and Natural Resources website.

The government will allow hunting of 15 Bathurst bulls for community ceremonial harvests.

But it said aboriginal groups will have to apply to the government before they do that.

That doesn't sit well with Erasmus. He said they’ve told the government many times that the Tlicho don’t need ceremonial tags.

“It is concerning that ENR will determine what is ceremonial to the Tlicho and what is not,” he said.

Erasmus said the conservation area shouldn’t just focus on restricted harvesting. He’s calling for more focus on the herd’s recovery,

He’d like to see an education and training program for monitors and hunters to accompany a recovery strategy.

Erasmus also wants more collars on the cows and bulls to increase the ability to monitor the Bathurst herd.

“The Bathurst conservation zone is a no-hunting zone. And if the GNWT wants to call it a conservation zone, then other measures such as predator control, and slowing down industry, and critical habitat of Bathurst are needed,” he said.

The territorial government says these measures will be reviewed after aerial surveys of the Bathurst herd and the Bluenose East herd are conducted this spring.

Erasmus said work will continue with the territorial government and he hopes these issues are resolved at the next meeting.  

“Some people have sacrificed a lot in the past years. And unfortunately, the herd has not come back the way we hoped,” he said. “We must take steps to help the herd.”

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