According to one of the hunt camp captains Derrick Huffman and Land’escapes CEO Ben Samann, some of the hunting camps on the 67, 235-acre Land’escapes land had a face-to-face meeting with Samann on Sept. 8 to have a dialogue about their continuing negotiations to stay on the land to hunt. While anywhere from 45 to 54 of the hunt camps signed on to hunt this year (according to estimates by Huffman and Samann), Huffman’s camp and many others did not due to the inflexible licence agreement financial terms they were asked to abide by. However, being Samann’s private property, he can offer whatever agreement he wishes and he explained to the hunt camps at the meeting he was looking out for his own interests with respect to his new acreage and that they should do what’s best for their own interests.
When Samann took possession of his new acreage in June, he told Bancroft This Week that he’d had generally positive interactions with the hunt camps who had been on the land for decades. Anywhere from 45 to 54 hunt camps had signed on with Land’escapes to hunt this year. Carlyle Apps, the general manager with Land’escapes told Bancroft This Week on Sept. 23 that that week they had been receiving new agreements from the hunt camps.
“We don’t quite have a final number yet, but we should have one by next week. I’ll be sure to send along an update when we are ready,” she says.
However, some of the camps subsequently revealed that they’d not had pleasant, but difficult negotiations with Land’escapes and were unable to come to terms with the organization to keep hunting on the land due to the inflexible financial conditions in the new licence agreement presented to them.
Samann acknowledges that the situation with the hunt camps is certainly complicated, and he felt that the agreement that he took over from the previous owners was poorly written and he alleges it was not being followed by some of the hunt camps. Therefore, he decided to terminate the agreement with 90 days notice as per the contract and renegotiated with each individual hunt camp.
“This is complicated, time consuming and slow for all parties. In the interest of expediency, we are only offering agreements for this fall’s hunt, in line with other large landscapes; $4 per acre with access for the three weeks of deer and moose hunt seasons, bearing in mind that the camps have had normal access to the land for the whole year to date for maintenance and other tasks,” he says.
Samann says that once everything is lined up for this fall, they’ll go back to each camp to discuss options going forward.
Samann says the face-to-face meeting on Sept. 8 was more of an open house, with 10 to 20 hunt camp captains and some members standing around their parking lot.
“I think a lot of people wanted to meet me in person and I’d say a lot of small misunderstandings were settled. [As of Sept. 16] it seems that we’re at about 45 out of 65 camps signing agreements with us, but there are still some last-minute stragglers,” he says.
Samann says that with regard to other progress, they’re pleased that they’ve mapped and are now marking about 160 kilometres of hiking trails, they’ve identified about 80 fantastic camp sites and he says they’ve generally made countless great connections with neighbours and long-standing members of the community.
One of the hunters, Huffman, had an eight-person camp on 693 acres for almost 60 years, and says that it was his camp and four other hunt camps that had a meeting with Samann and were able to clear up a few issues.
“I believe he was pretty open and honest, frank, to the point. He was just ‘this is the way it’s going to have to be this year,’” he says.
Huffman says he was contacted by Apps, who wanted to know if his hunt camp was going to sign up to hunt this year. He declined, citing the no cause eviction clause, meaning they could be evicted for any reason whatsoever at Land’escapes’ discretion and the $3,000 deposit required to remediate the land with no financial cap, meaning it could be a far larger amount to remediate the land and the hunt camp would be obligated to pay said amount. There was also mention of a 15 per cent administrative fee on all costs, but the total number of what constituted all costs was vague.
Despite his misgivings about some facets of the licence agreement, Huffman says he understands and respects Sam
ann’s vision for the land.
Consequently, Apps offered a face-to-face meeting with Samann, which happened on Sept. 8 on McKenzie Lane, a main road just off of Hwy 62, which Huffman says used to be the laydown yard for the logs cut by the previous owner of the land.
“We believe in what [Samann] believes in, his overall vision for the land. So, we talked about the licences that would give the hunt camps permission to hunt on the property and about building trust over time. Everybody got a chance to ask their questions and he got to explain himself, which is good,” he says.
Huffman said that Samann told them that if they had any qualms about signing the new licence agreement, they shouldn’t do it.
“He said it was all for him and his protection, and that he had to do it this way as he doesn’t know what he’s walking into [on the new acreage] and he wants to make sure he’s covered,” he says.
Huffman says that ultimately, he has to go back and talk to his camp and tell them what’s going on and they all have to decide whether or not to move forward.
“Democratic society, democratic process,” he says. “And it came down to no, we’re just going to pick up our stuff and do something else.”
Michael Riley, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Bancroft Times