On July 13 and 14, a group of First Nation communities, the Manitoba Lodges and Outfitters Association and the Manitoba Wildlife Federation held its second informal meeting in Scanterbury, Manitoba at the Brokenhead Ojibway First Nation to discuss the future of moose in the region east of Lake Winnipeg. This meeting and this developing consortium came about through the efforts of William Young of Bloodvein First Nation, and Paul Turenne, the Executive Director of the MLOA. William is a leader within the Bloodvein community and runs, among other things, the Bloodvein River Lodge. William and the community of Bloodvein River were concerned for the future of moose populations on the east side of Lake Winnipeg, given the new road that has been extended into that region. William saw some of the communications the MWF did March of 2015, regarding the high number of cow moose being shot illegally in the Grass River region, and reached out to Paul Turenne, whom he knew through his lodge business. Paul came to the Federation asking if we’d go and meet with William at his place in Bloodvein. Rob Olson, Gerry Arbez of the Lac du Bonnett Wildlife Association and Paul Turenne headed up to Bloodvein to meet with William Young August of 2015. The rest they say, is history.
In short the meeting with William and members of his community went very well. We all agreed that we had a common concern for the future of the moose on the East Side. William felt his community’s concerns might be shared by other First Nation communities in the region. We agreed to try to bring moose hunters together who cared about the east side, to see if common ground could be found. It was also agreed that we would not include government at the outset so that people might feel free to speak openly and frankly about the issues.
Plans were made for a meeting and Bloodvein, MLOA and the MWF applied together to the Fish and Wildlife Enhancement Fund for funding to hold a meeting early in 2016. We received approval from the FWEF and held our first meeting on January 28, 29, hosted by Brokenhead Ojibway Nation. The meeting was a real success. We had 7 First Nation communities from the East Side travel to Scanterbury to participate (Berens River First Nation, Black River First Nation, Bloodvein First Nation, Brokenhead Ojibway First Nation, Hollow Water First Nation, Little Grand Rapids First Nation, Poplar River First Nation) and four organizations (East Side Aboriginal Sustainable Tourism Inc, Manitoba Lodges and Outfitters Association, Manitoba Model Forest, Manitoba Wildlife Federation). Common ground was found and relationships were built.
The recent, second meeting on July 13, 14 was another good step. Recommendations are being formulated currently from the discussions that have occurred, with the idea that all the groups in attendance who are in support would approach the new government together asking for action. Suggestions from this group include ideas like creating a road hunting refuge along the new East Side road, increasing involvement by the communities in big game surveys and management and the need for increased enforcement of game laws by the Province and by the communities themselves, and much more.A final report will be made public.
This meeting is really a pilot project of sorts, and as far as we can tell, it is the first time in this Province that aboriginal and non-aboriginal moose hunters have come together on their own to find solutions to the decline of big game. We remain hopeful it will bear fruit in the form of better sustainability for moose on the East Side and if successful, could provide a model for use in other parts of the Province and country. Maybe there is hope for the moose.