Tourist outfitters can’t bear compensation package

Tourist outfitters who face financial loss due to the cancellation of the spring bear hunt in Ontario have a simple reaction to Natural Resources minister John Snobelen’s compensation package announced late last week–it’s not enough.
The province has promised each eligible spring bear hunt operator $250 per hunter who used their services in 1998.
“Two hundred and fifty bucks for 20 years isn’t enough when hunters average about $1,000 each guy,” fumed Don Hyatt, owner of Hyatt’s Manion Lake Camp northeast of Mine Centre. “And then the re-sale of a guy’s business goes down now because you can’t sell that part of the business.
“It’s kind of like a kick in the nuts,” he lamented. “I figured [the compensation] would be a lot more than that.”
Lorraine Cupp, who has owned LaGrange Bear Baiting Services along with her husband, Rod, for the past 20 years, said the compensation won’t be anywhere near what their loss in revenue would be for this year.
“At $250, we would be getting back $4,000 (Cdn.) but if we would have the hunters come, then we would get $9,000 (U.S.), which is what we would get each year,” she noted last Friday after hearing of the compensation package on the radio.
“The money we get back just barely covers our expenses and our refunds to people,” she argued.
Those eligible to apply for immediate assistance include authorized issuers of Black Bear Hunting Licence Validation Certificates, and other individuals and businesses that had contracted to provide guiding and baiting services directly to spring bear hunters.
Applicants must be able to show they were actively engaged as a bear hunt operator in Ontario as of Jan. 15, 1999.
New operators also may be eligible for financial assistance if they can demonstrate they were in business by Jan. 15, and had contacted with and received deposits from spring bear hunters up to that date.
The province had said all along outfitters would be compensated for their losses. When Snobelen first announced plans to cancel the spring bear hunt, he noted they “realize this action will create problems for some outfitters [and] we will do whatever is reasonable to address the impact.”
But Jim Grayston, executive director of the Northern Ontario Tourist Outfitters (NOTO), said the compensation package is a “slap in the face,” and that the province completely ignored the 30-day consultation period.
“Most operators are saying it’s a joke . . . but it’s certainly not very funny,” Grayston noted in a press release last week. “[The compensation] doesn’t even come close to covering the marketing expenditures most operators have already incurred.”
The Ontario Federation of Anglers and Hunters said an unprecedented public response pertaining to the cancellation of the spring bear hunt generated a “record-setting” 35,000 letters to the MNR and to Premier Mike Harris.
Of those letters, the OFAH said 64 percent were in support of the continuation of the spring bear hunt while only 35 percent agreed with the government’s decision.
Snobelen ended the hunt based on complaints from animal rights groups that too many bear cubs were being orphaned each year. But in the 12 years it’s been illegal to harvest female bears with cubs, the OFAH noted only one conviction has been recorded.
Outfitters are vehement that the compensation is not reasonable at all. In fact, many argue it will not at all go far enough in replacing lost revenue this season. The OFAH estimated the spring bear hunt is worth an estimated $15-$30 million, with more than $1 million in non-resident bear licence fees alone automatically lost due to the cancellation.
NOTO estimated cancelling the hunt will cost many operators their businesses–and at least $40 million tourism dollars in the province.
The OFAH also argued many cities and towns across central and Northern Ontario also will experience increased nuisance bear problems in the coming years.
“With upward of 100,000 bears, Ontario’s bruin population was already very healthy and growing,” said Rick Morgan, executive vice-president of the 79,000-member OFAH. “As of June 15 this year, there will be an estimated 4,000 more bears in Ontario.
“Some of those bears will attack farmers’ livestock and crops. Others will wind up in residential or cottage areas, garbage dumps, and picnic spots with potentially threatening consequences for people and property,” he warned.
Meanwhile, Cupp said many operators also will have lost out on money already spent travelling to sports shows in the U.S. But she said no compensation was awarded by the province to curtail the financial losses incurred by outfitters who spent time promoting their camps before this season.
Hyatt wasn’t sure if he, or any other operators, would accept the $250 compensation package.
“There’s a lot of guys out there strapped for cash and they may take it but there may be other guys who are willing to fight back,” he noted.
When asked what she would do, Cupp said she was open to suggestions and was interested to see what action other operators were going to take.
The OFAH has vowed to continue efforts to have the “important tradition” of the spring bear hunt reinstated, including sending two letters to the province outlining legal options it may pursue.