Decision Date: August 3, 2010
Panel: Gabriella Lang
Keywords: Wildlife Act – ss. 1 – definition of “quota”, 51, 60; guide outfitter licence; annual quota; 3-year allocation; moose
Steven Hoessl and 16 other individuals (the “Appellants”) appealed 17 separate decisions of the Regional Wildlife Manager, Environmental Stewardship Division, Cariboo Chilcotin Region, Ministry of Environment (the “Ministry”). The appealed decisions set the Appellants’ annual quota of moose for 2009, and their 3-year allocation of moose for 2009 to 2011. The Appellants are guide outfitters who take non-resident hunters on guided hunts for big game, including moose. The annual quota and 3-year allocation are issued with the guides’ annual licence, and limit the species and number of game that may be harvested by the guides’ clients over the period specified. In 2007, the province adopted a new harvest allocation policy. In part, it was the Regional Manager’s application of that policy beginning with the 2009 moose hunting season that led to the appeals. Also, the Ministry revised its estimate of the moose annual allowable harvest for the region, and adopted a new process for allocating the portion of that harvest available to non-resident hunters. Compared to previous years, the Appellants’ 2009 quotas and 3-year allocations of moose were reduced by approximately 20% in most cases, and by more than 20% in some cases.
Each of the Appellants filed separate appeals, but the appeals were heard together because the appeals raised similar issues and the Appellants requested similar remedies. The Appellants asked the Board to send the decisions back to the Regional Manager with certain directions. The appeal hearing was adjourned for several months to allow time for the parties to negotiate a resolution, but the parties were unable to reach any agreement, so they requested that the Board proceed with the hearing.
The Board first considered whether the appeals were moot. The Regional Manager argued that the appeals were moot because the 2009 moose hunting season was over when the appeals were heard. The Board found that the appeals were not moot, because the appealed decisions included both the 2009 quotas and the 3-year allocations, and the 3-year allocations applied for two more years when the appeals were heard. However, the Board held that it would make no decision regarding the 2009 quotas because the 2009 moose hunting season was over.
Next, the Board considered whether the Regional Manager provided the Appellants with sufficient notice and consultation about the reduced quotas and allocations. The Appellants testified that they were shocked by their new quotas and allocation. They submitted that they were given very little information about the reasons for the reductions or how the numbers were calculated, and that they had insufficient notice about reductions that had a significant impact on their businesses. The Board found that the timing of the Regional Manager’s advance notice of the reductions allowed little time for the Appellants to adjust their business plans for the 2009 season, and that they did not receive details about the reasons for the reductions until their appeals were heard by the Board. However, the Board also found that the Regional Manager provided the Appellants with notice of the reductions in December 2008, and Ministry staff conducted an information session with guide outfitters and a consultant retained by the Cariboo Chilcotin Guide Outfitters Association in January 2009, before the Regional Manager issued his decisions in February 2009. The Board found that the Regional Manager could not have provided earlier notice to the Appellants, because the impacts of the new policy on the Appellants were not fully understood until November 2008, after the regional moose population estimates were completed and Ministry staff calculated the portion of the moose annual allowable hunt that would be available to non-resident hunters after allowing for higher priority purposes, such as conservation, First Nations use, and resident hunters. In those circumstances, the Board found that any inadequacies in the Regional Manager’s notice and consultation were insufficient to warrant sending the decisions back to the Regional Manager. Further, the Board noted that the Regional Manager has the discretion to adjust quotas from year to year, and the parties have the opportunity to continue to consult about future quotas and allocations.
The Board next considered whether to refer the appealed decisions back to the Regional Manager with directions to: extend the period of transition to the new policy beyond 2012; revise the region’s moose population estimate based on input from guide outfitters and other stakeholders; and, to consider a financial impact study as part of any review of the new policy. The Board found that the Regional Manager applied the same decision-making process to all of the Appellants, and the methodology used to estimate the moose population was scientifically sound, fair, and the best that could be achieved given the resources and time available. The Board also found that, even if the moose population estimate increased, it would not necessarily lead to an increase in the Appellants’ quotas or allocations, because additional moose could be allocated to higher priority purposes such as conservation or First Nations use, rather than to non-resident hunters, who are the lowest priority. In those circumstances, the Board found that the Regional Manager’s decisions were reasonable. The Board also concluded that the implementation of the new policy, and the period of transition for it, are policy decisions made by the Regional Manager or other Ministry staff, and are not matters for the Board to decide. Finally, the Board reminded the parties of several options proposed by witnesses during the hearing to address issues that were raised by the appeals but were not within the Board’s jurisdiction.
Accordingly, the Board confirmed the Regional Manager’s decisions. The appeals were dismissed, with the exception of one appeal that was withdrawn during the hearing.