KELOWNA – The president of the Oceola Fish and Game Club isn’t going to Saturday's protest at Premier Christy Clark’s office for himself. He’s doing it for his step-son Colin and others of his generation.
“I grew up in the Cariboo and general open season on moose ran from September to November,” Sean Richardson says. “That was sustainable for quite a long time but due to changes in habitat and lobbying from the guide outfitters, the only way you can hunt moose now is on a limited entry.
He says the odds of obtaining a limited entry through the draw in the Okanagan is now 50 to one and getting worse.
"My 12-year-old stepson started hunting this year and he probably will never win that draw to be able to hunt moose.”
On Saturday morning, hundreds of hunters from across the province will meet at the old Zellers parking lot on Old Okanagan Highway. They will march en masse to the Premier’s office on Dobbin Road where they will each deliver personalized letters asking the provincial government to rethink their plan to increase the number of hunting tags given to guide outfitters who cater to tourists.
“We would really like the government to revise the policy and make it a lot more equitable for the residents and taxpayers of British Columbia,” Richardson says. “This policy is giving between 20 and 40 per cent, depending on species, of the harvestable surplus of wildlife to foreigners.”
Richardson says it’s simply not fair that guided hunts, which make up roughly four per cent of the hunters in the province, will be getting as much as 40 per cent of the tags.
“The government has decided that the viability of the guide outfitting industry is very important,” he says. “They believe that allocating a higher number of animals to the guides is going to somehow prop up their business.”
Richardson believes the real reason guide companies are struggling however, is because of changing demographics and that is not a good enough reason to take what he, and others feel, belong to them.
“I think that business model has been used for a long time and it’s maybe broken,” he says. “I think that the guide outfitters need to figure out how to make their own business more profitable without relying on taking more animals from residents.”
He says the 900 members of the Oceola Fish and Game Club would like to see ten per cent of tags go to guides and the rest to locals.
“This isn’t driven by greed,” he says. “We’re fighting to make sure our kids are going to have the opportunities that they should have.”
The rally is scheduled for 11 a.m. on Saturday, Jan 31. Those interested in attending are asked to park at the old Zellers lot and walk over to Dobbin Road, with volunteers will be on hand to provide direction.
There will also be a gathering Friday night at Creekside Pub for out of town travellers and anyone else interested.
For more information, visit the Oceola Facebook page or the club's website.
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