Commercial harvesting restrictions exclude valley

The Columbia Valley is exempt from the commercial huckleberry harvesting restrictions in B.C.

In an effort to conserve wild huckleberries to ensure Grizzly bears have an adequate food source, a commercial huckleberry picking restriction has been issued in the Kootenay-Boundary region.

However, the Columbia Valley remains exempt from the commercial huckleberry picking restrictions issued by the Government of B.C. in partnership with the Ktunaxa Nation Council to protect the ecosystem.

“It was intentionally excluded, as were most areas of the Kootenay-Boundary Region, and there is no other Public Service Announcement planned for this season,” said Tyler Hooper, Ministry of Forests, Lands, Natural Resource Operations and Rural Development by e-mail. “Current closure areas are limited to specific smaller areas around Creston, Yahk, Fernie and the Upper Flathead.”

Between July 15 and Oct. 15, the Ministry of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations have closed areas in the Kootenay Boundary region such as: Goat River, Iron Creek, Kid Creek, Little Moyie, Monk Creek, Sportsman Ridge and Summit Creek to restrict huckleberries from being harvested from Crown Land.

The Ktunaxa Nation Council advocated for environmental stewardship in the East Kootenay region to protect the Grizzly bear populations that could thrive in the area under optimal conditions.

“In recent years, we’ve noticed increases in commercial-scale huckleberry harvesting,” said Kathryn Teneese, chair of the Ktunaxa Nation Council. “The Ktunaxa Nation Council has been working closely with the province to identify areas that are key Grizzly foraging areas. It’s a major food source for them.”

Akisqnuk First Nation chief Alfred Joseph was unavailable for comment before the Pioneer went to press.

Between July 15 and Oct. 15, the Ministry of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations have closed areas in the Kootenay Boundary region such as: Goat River, Iron Creek, Kid Creek, Little Moyie, Monk Creek, Sportsman Ridge and Summit Creek to restrict huckleberries from being harvested from Crown Land.

Shuswap Indian Band councillor Mark Thomas was disheartened to see the restrictions did not apply to the Columbia Valley when the surrounding areas were successful in bringing about change in a positive way.

“We are happy that there are closures. It’s good that they’re doing this now, even though it’s a bit late in the season,” said Thomas. “It’s better late than never, and hopefully it will keep the Grizzlies up in the woods where they’re supposed to be.”

He noted the closest closure to the Columbia Valley appearing on the Kootenay’s regional access restrictions list was likely the Iron and Sand Creek area near Wardner.

Thomas explained the reason harvesting huckleberries from a commercial perspective has also been a concern for the Shuswap for a couple of years has been due to the harmful approach of commercial harvesting techniques.

“The use of rakes has been devastating to the area and has been high, which is detrimental to the life cycle of the bears,” said Thomas, noting that the use of rakes not only removes berries but also removes the foliage of slow growing plants that provide a source of food to Grizzly bears.

“In the past, what I’ve seen them (commercial harvesters) do is take old tobacco cans and cut one-and-a-half inch teeth on the bottom or so, then they rake that can through the bush, so it removes the berries but it also removes any of the foliage. It takes everything off the plant and leaves it there, naked, and susceptible to disease.”

Hooper added the Ministry of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations is aware of the issue with rakes and plans to monitor it going forward.

“We are discouraging the use of rakes and other mechanical harvesting devices this season as a best practice, due to concerns it damages the huckleberry plant,” said Hooper. “More engagement on the issues is planned over the coming year.”

To learn more about which areas have been impacted by the commercial huckleberry picking ban, please visit: http://www.env.gov.bc.ca/kootenay/eco/access.htm to view maps.

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