Looks like you can add the Alberta Bowhunters Association to the growing list of groups against Open Spaces.
A big thank you to the ABA for taking a stand and looking after the interests of its membes. Time for AFGA to get of the pot so to speak.
January 31, 2008
420 Legislature Building
10800 97 Avenue
Canada T5K 2B6
Dear Mr. Morton:
As you are probably aware, the recent announcement of the Open Spaces Pilot Program and the Hunting For Habitat concept have certainly gotten the attention of the hunters and fishermen, the outdoor recreationists of the province. Our membership and executive have looked over the documents outlining these two projects, we have read and participated in several web forums, we have debated very vigorously and passionately about the issues, we have attended outdoor group meetings and government sponsored meetings, we have tried to get answers to many questions. It seems that those answers are very vague or not even available. There seems to be a great deal of reluctance from government/department personnel to even talk about these programs. It seems like the participants in the process are even tight lipped and can’t share any information or opinions.
We certainly agree that some sort of “habitat retention benefit” program needs to be developed where all landowners are rewarded (tax wise being a great way) for acreage left for wildlife. On the surface, these programs may have some benefit but the more we analyze them, the more we learn about them, the more they scare the hell out of us. Will this be the thin part of a wedge that becomes a cancer and spreads throughout the province? Will paid hunting, paid access be a reality across the province?
This may start out as a pilot project in a couple of areas in southern Alberta. How does your department think the rules, the guidelines, the process as it is outlined now, will stay that way? Landowners who do not currently qualify will lobby your government to take advantage of this “cash cow” and you can’t blame them. There are far too many questions, so few answers, and so much room for disaster, that the people of Alberta who will be affected most are starting to stand up and make their concerns known. You can add the Alberta Bowhunters Association to that list.
I have listed an array of questions that we would like answered so that we can further develop an opinion as to these programs and their validity, to their very real threat to access and hunting as we now know it. Your response is very much appreciated and we welcome the chance to review your answers.
1. If the property in question (either held by one landowner or as a business unit) be broken into separate blocks and access restricted to those blocks/areas or will the resident, non-paying hunter be allowed to access all the property in this “business unit” as a whole? If the landowner registers all his land does he have to grant access to all his land? Are the vouchers landowner specific within a business unit?
2. What are the specifics of the access management plan? What is to prevent the landowner from only granting access through the RAMP program to residents on land that is less likely to hold game, and the voucher holder getting the exclusive access to the premier areas? Concern is that the good habitat, big buck areas will be held for the paying tag holders.
3. Do the properties (if more than on landowner is involved) have to be connected in any way or can these business units have properties spread out all over a WMU? Would general access to a “business unit” allow access to all those properties included in that business unit?
4. Can the landowner sell ALL of his tags to say one outfitter and leave none left over for a resident to buy? Have there been thoughts of maintaining a certain number of the landowner/business unit tags for residents to purchase? If they are sold to an outfitter, the tags should not come from our resident base. Maybe they should come from his outfitter allocation base of that WMU.
5. Is there a limit to how much can they sell these tags for?
6. It is mentioned that the plan calls for “landowners participating in the HFH program to allow for free access to public draw hunting”. Should this not include general public hunting – for those tags not requiring a SRD draw? Coyotes, upland game birds, whitetails (in many WMUs) would be an example. What about Pre-season hunting (bow) when you do not need the draw? How will this affect the Archery seasons/pre-seasons within this pilot project?
7. The “Draw” mentioned – is that for those species that residents currently have to draw for in that WMU? Or would there be some separate draw for that “business unit” for each species concerned.
8. What are the specifics of the appeal process? What are the penalties for non-compliance? Concern is that a lot of time will be wasted by a resident hunter traveling to one of these WMUs/business units only to get the run around when he gets there. By the time the appeal process has done it’s work, his hunt may be over – great deal of time and money wasted.
9. Who will police and enforce the rules and guidelines?
10. Is the voucher program also applicable on Lease land (Agricultural Disposition)? Grazing leases should NOT be considered part of the business unit/land base calculation?
11. Is the RAMP program also applicable on Lease land (Agricultural Disposition)?
12. What properties and area of the province are the pilot projects being done in? What time frame are they for?
13. Will the landowner vouchers be subtracted from the available resident permits? We do not like the idea of taking tags away from the existing resident draw pool. It would be better if they are opening up new lands that have not allowed hunting that SRD should increase the total Alberta tags available for draw.
14. Are there vouchers granted for Antlered and Antlerless? It should not be just a “trophy” hunt concept.
15. Has there been discussion expanding this to other WMU’s? Province wide? Any timelines established? It is inconceivable that other landowners who do not qualify under these current guidelines/rules will be lobbying the govt to get in on this type of cash cow.
16. With this only being implemented in the two southern WMU’s (108 and 300) this sets a very scary precedent for all private land Alberta. Why should only landowners in these zones get the privilege of vouchers? Especially since the landowners in these zones have had a history of not allowing access? Now he can sell you a voucher and profit from it, yet the landowner in another WMU or the same WMU (neighbors even) who has granted access gets no financial reward? This is a very slippery slope!!
17. Are there a minimum/maximum number of hunter days that the “business unit” managers can impose?
18. From the outside looking in, there is now a legal conduit for landowners to receive payment for access via the voucher program. What is the difference if the landowner is granted the privilege to charge for access or if he sells me a voucher?
19. If a landowner wants to maximize the value of his voucher he will now have more of an incentive to limit access to the best habitat on his land because of the HFH program. It is contradictory to the spirit of the whole program to me. It uses a well thought out program (RAMP) as smoke and mirrors, and as a trade-off for the voucher program (HFH). Simply put the RAMP program was conceived to legitimize the HFH program, or so it seems. These programs are so different in spirit and function, yet the same steering committee is overseeing and implementing both?
20. There is a very real fear that after the initial five-year pilot program is over, that the landowner participants will lobby hard to keep it in place as they are going to be financial winners. Other landowners will see the dollars available and want a piece of the action. The resident hunter will be powerless to stop it.
21. If allowed to escalate and expand to all private land regardless of size, hunter numbers could plummet as many have little or no access to “free” crown land now. What crown land there is would also see an increase in hunter pressure.
22. What would stop landowners who have the resources and inclination from high fencing their land to keep this money making wildlife on their property?
I do hope that you take our concerns seriously. Providing answers to our questions will give us an opportunity to get the facts and make an informed opinion on these issues. As you can see, these programs are in need of a great deal of work and this pilot project needs to be stopped now to make sure that the people of Alberta have all had meaningful input as this may well become the biggest blemish on hunting/fishing/trapping on private lands we have ever seen. We need to get it right. Thanking you in advance.
2008 ABA President
Grande Prairie, Alberta