Trappers in Mackenzie Delta may need relief if waters rise

·2 min read
A rack of fox pelts on display in the Yellowknife offices of Francois Rossouw, a furbearer biologist with the N.W.T. Department of Environment and Natural Resources.  (John Last/CBC - image credit)
A rack of fox pelts on display in the Yellowknife offices of Francois Rossouw, a furbearer biologist with the N.W.T. Department of Environment and Natural Resources. (John Last/CBC - image credit)

MLA Lesa Semmler says high water levels last spring could put harvesters and trappers in jeopardy and that they risk being flooded out when rivers and lakes break up once again.

Semmler asked for a review of the rules to access the Hunters and Trappers Disaster Compensation Fund and for the environment minister to offer relief to trappers this spring if the water gets too high.

"I am concerned for hunters and trappers in my riding. It is unknown what the spring melt will bring," she said. "If the water continues to go up, many cabins will be flooded in my region."

Last spring, water levels in the N.W.T. reached unprecedented levels and severe flooding affected the territory, said Semmler.

If the water gets too high, Semmler said she fears "many harvesters will be negatively impacted and may even give up their traditional way of life."

Semmler said eligibility rules for the environment department's Hunters and Trappers Disaster Compensation Fund could exclude harvesters who earn less than 20 per cent of their income from trapping.

"Many harvesters today choose to practice this traditional way of life and preserve these harvesting skills while working another job that provides the cash to support these traditions," she said.

Many don't live in their cabins year round, she said.

Many harvesters will not generate 20 per cent of their annual income through harvesting and trapping, "but that does not make their pursuit of traditional skills any less important," she said.

An aerial view of Inuvik, N.W.T., on  June 1, 2020. A scientist with Natural Resources Canada says the water levels are the highest he has seen in 17 years of recorded data.
An aerial view of Inuvik, N.W.T., on June 1, 2020. A scientist with Natural Resources Canada says the water levels are the highest he has seen in 17 years of recorded data.(Submitted by Connor Gould)

Semmler wants the department to decrease the percentage of income a harvester is required to make through harvesting to include as many harvesters as possible.

She also asked Thompson to offer the same emergency funding —$40,000 for trappers in the southern N.W.T. who faced severe flooding — and extend the compensation to trappers around the territory.

A review of the compensation fund will be completed by the end of the year, said Environment Minister Shane Thompson.

That's too late for spring time, said Semmler, who adds she'll seek individual exemptions before the review is complete.

Thompson said that funding was a one-time assistance for people whose property was damaged, but that as spring approaches they will evaluate relief on a case-by-case basis.