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Reduced access to wildlife lands worries some trappers, outfitters
Oct 1, 2020 07:09 ET

[Reprinted from original]

Some Saskatchewan trappers and outfitters are concerned about the possibility of having reduced access to wildlife lands.

In July, the provincial Ministry of Agriculture transferred almost 32,000 hectares of Crown land to the Ministry of Environment. About 27,000 hectares went to the Fish and Wildlife Development Fund (FWDF), to be managed as wildlife habitat, the environment ministry said in a statement.

That’s a concern for some trappers who’ve contacted Wrangler Hamm, president of the Saskatchewan Trappers Association. In one case, the concern is over the land transferred near the Rural Municipality of Porcupine and the surrounding area, which is about 300 kilometres northeast of Saskatoon.

While trappers can access the lands by foot, they can’t use vehicles to remove animals like beavers without a permit, “due to an identified negative impact on surrounding land, property or infrastructure,” a Ministry of Environment statement said.

Hamm noted trapping requires travelling long distances with equipment and product, adding that it could be “equivalent even to big game animals.”

A weak fur market has made trapping more difficult. In the case of one concerned trapper, “if he can’t use his motor vehicle, he’s probably not going to be harvesting as many beavers … than he has in the past,” Hamm said.

The Saskatchewan Wildlife Federation (SWF) helps administer the land. Executive director Darrell Crabbe said he could provide a permit for specific areas, but not a blanket permit for all areas.

“We have to be able to justify why we’re giving out permits. Because otherwise every trapper in Saskatchewan is going to want one of those permits,” Crabbe said.

Some officials from municipalities close to the land that were transferred to the FWDF also expressed concern that fewer trappers on the land could mean more beavers. Steve Kwiatkowski, reeve of the RM of Porcupine, said the animals are “wrecking our infrastructure.”

He estimated associated infrastructure costs to the RM could climb as high as $300,000. Trapping is a necessary service to manage those challenges, he said.

RM of Bjorkdale councillor Brett Norum said beaver-related flooding also affects nearby farmlands. He estimated his RM spends between $50,000 and $70,000 each year to deal with the animals.

Crabbe noted that trappers could receive permits to address challenges emerging on neighbouring land as the result of beaver activity.

“We understand fully the implications and the need (to address beaver issues),” he said. “We’re certainly not against it.”

Outfitters have also expressed concern as COVID-19 causes tourism numbers to plummet.

A statement from the Ministry of Environment said outfitting isn’t allowed on FWDF lands, adding that lands where outfitting occurs weren’t transferred to the FWDF. The ministry said it advised local outfitters of the transfer.

“If authorized outfitting activity was somehow missed and the land transferred to FWDF, the ministry will work to restore access to those outfitters,” the statement read.

Mark Belchamber, an outfitter in nearby Carragana, said he wasn’t warned of the changes and is trying to understand how the transfer will affect his business, but can’t get a clear answer.

“It hurts us because there’s a lot of the outfitters and trappers that rely on that land to hunt on. Now, because they turned it into wildlife lands, we can’t do that.”