Commercial hunting shot down in Alberton

FORT FRANCES—While public attendance at Alberton council meetings generally is sparse, the one last Wednesday night was a different story.
About a dozen residents filled the chairs at the municipal office to voice their opinions and concerns regarding commercial hunting in the township.
Council had asked for input from residents on the matter after being approached by Border Country Outfitters back in December about leasing property in Alberton for the purpose of commercial hunting.
The Emo-based business had obtained proper licensing from the Ministry of Natural Resources, but wanted to make certain there was no problem from the township’s perspective.
It was noted in the township’s January newsletter that the activity is not specifically listed in the zoning bylaw. But the wording of the bylaw indicates if something is not cited, it is not permitted.
“From the MNR’s view, the hunting activity is legal as long as it’s not prohibited by the municipality,” it continued.
But it seems the majority of Alberton residents want commercial hunting prohibited there—most fearing it would put their safety at risk.
“People should feel safe on every corner of their property,” argued resident Keith Fifield, adding hunters baiting bears and using high-powered rifles would put people in danger.
“Sometimes you can’t even see the house form the road,” he added.
“Sooner or later someone is really going to get hurt,” Fifield stressed. “We have a chance to put a stop to this.”
Fifield noted he was grateful to have the opportunity to communicate his concern since those living in unorganized areas such as Miscampbell don’t have a voice.
“It could completely consume them,” he remarked.
Fifield also mentioned the irony of Alberton recently being designated a “Safe Community” by the World Health Organization.
“We should continue to meet that criteria and allowing commercial hunting isn’t doing that,” he said.
Fellow resident Lyle Hyatt said there’s no benefit for the community to allow commercial hunting.
“It doesn’t help lower our taxes,” he indicated. “In fact, the tax base goes down when the land becomes commercial, but remains vacant. . . .
“We’re going to have a war zone,” he warned. “And it could discourage people from moving here.”
A member of the Fort Frances Sportsmen’s Club also offered his input.
“We take kids out to these area to learn and if they start baiting bears, where are we going to go?” he wondered.
Another resident stressed he doesn’t want to lose any of his livestock.
“Don’t think they won’t come on property they’re not supposed to because they will,” he charged, noting he had found a deer lying dead next to his animals in the past.
One woman asked, given the lack of boundaries or fences, what’s going to stop the hunters from crossing onto land not leased for the activity?
“Fences won’t them,” was a response from one farmer. “Neither does ‘No Trespassing’ signs.”
Alberton council agreed with the concerns from residents both attending last Wednesday’s meeting as well as those who had submitted e-mails stating their opposition.
“There’s no respect for private property,” said Reeve Mike Hammond.
“The one thing is, if we don’t allow it, we’ll have to enforce it,” noted Coun. Peter Spuzak. “But I think people would abide by it.”
One resident stressed everyone in the community knows what’s going on anyway, so hunters won’t be able to get away with it.
Coun. Doug Mitchell explained to those on hand that commercial hunting can’t be done legally without a bylaw change—and they haven’t applied for it.
If Border Country Outfitters does apply for the bylaw change, a public meeting has to be held to consider it.
“Thank you for coming out,” Coun. Barb Cournoyer told the residents. “This is exactly what we needed. We will take it very seriously.”
Also at last Wednesday night’s meeting, Alberton council:
•approved the annual report prepared by Volunteer Fire Department Chief Cory Jewell, and both the 2007 Strategic Plan for a Smoke Alarm Program and for Public Education and Awareness;
•heard a report from Reeve Hammond about the most recent AMBIS committee meeting;
•agreed to pledge $8,000 to the Riverside Foundation for Health Care’s “Just Imagine” fundraising campaign for a CT Scanner at La Verendrye Hospital in Fort Frances over a four-year period;
•passed a bylaw to renew the Municipal Forest Fire Management agreement with the Ministry of Natural Resources; and
•confirmed there is no objection to the application before the Ministry of the Environment made by Kitchen Creek Golf Club for water-taking.
Alberton council will hold its next regular meeting Wednesday, March 14 at 7 p.m. at the municipal office.