The Government of Yukon has opened the Fortymile Caribou herd in the Dawson region up to harvesting indirect opposition to the wishes of the Tr’ondëk Hwëch’in Government.
On December 31st of 2019, the Government of Yukon made permits available to hunt Fortymile Caribou based on recommendations from the Yukon Fish and Wildlife Board. In total 225 permits will be available, based on an estimated total herd population of 84, 000. This number is up from a historical low of 6,400 animals, but down from the hundreds of thousands that once roamed northern Yukon and Alaska.
Tr’ondëk Hwëch’in Chief Roberta Joseph says that the collaborative process of creating a harvest management plan was not completed with the first nation government. Joseph says the territory acted unilaterally and prematurely given that the First Nation government has not signed off on a harvest management plan. Joseph says the plan that is being worked on would include more provisions relating to seasonal timing, specific locations and allowable harvest.
Joseph says that it would be great if the public would refrain from harvesting the animals until a harvest management plan has been put into place. She says it was the Tr’ondëk Hwëch’in government who initially lobbied the government to put a moratorium on hunting the animals for conservation purposes, and that they have made a significant cultural sacrifice by abstaining from hunting. Although Tr’ondëk Hwëch’in First Nation members do not require a permit for subsistence hunting, Joseph says they have abstained from the hunt for the past 20 years. She describes this a serious cultural sacrifice, given that a whole generation has not had a traditional relationship with the caribou. She says stores, hunts and experiences have not been passed down through the generations because they have made this effort to secure a more sustainable population.
Chief Joseph feels that the decision to open the hunt may have been caused by pressure from the Alaskan government’s actions. The state government indicated it would attempt to increase its own allocation of the harvest should the Yukon government not open harvesting.
Joseph says moving forward they hope to complete the harvest management plan and continue talks with the government of Yukon.