What is a “RTL”?
The Registered Trapline (RTL) System is a commercial furbearer harvest management system whereby a person, the “lineholder,” is granted the exclusive opportunity to harvest (trap) furbearing animals in a certain area, the “RTL.” The system ensures sustainable furbearer populations by controlling the number of trappers in that area and recognizes the lineholder as the steward of the resource. Some RTL sections are called “blocks,” where no individual lines exist and all eligible community members may trap within the block.
Why is it important?
By the 1940s, trapping was out of control in northern Manitoba and furbearing animal numbers, especially beaver, had been badly depleted. They were being high-graded. Part of the reason was the large influx of new people into the north with the building of the rail line to Churchill.
More tragically, local people (mostly First Nations) who had been trapping on the land for generations saw their traditional livelihoods threatened. At the request of the communities, Manitoba and Canada created the RTL system to allow local people to continue trapping on their traditional lands and at the same time recognize them as the stewards of their traplines. From the original RTLs created around the communities of Thicket Portage and Pikwitonei, the system grew to a total of 46 community-based “sections” each with a varying number of individual lines.
Why is it even more important today?
When an RTL section was created by the Chief and Council of the First Nations and their respective trappers themselves, it usually also represented the traditional lands used by a community and defined those boundaries legally for the first time. These boundaries now form the basis for many major land-use projects around those communities (such as the Northern Flood Agreement management areas, the Poplar-Nanowin Rivers Park Reserve, and Wabanong Nakaygum Okimawin communties). However, this system also confined people to specific geographic areas and in some instances this was not the traditional method of trapping of the community.
RTL trappers themselves are often the best sources of information (traditional knowledge), as they are on the land more often than are most other people. It comes at a time when this information is constantly needed to track not just furbearing animals, but big game and the health of land or habitats.
How can I get an RTL line?
Lines cannot be sold, inherited, or handed down. Under the terms of the current Policy they are awarded through competitions held in co-operation between the local trapping organization and Manitoba Conservation and Water Stewardship. Decisions are made through a scoring process, whereby a varying number of points are given to applicants based, among other things, on:
• family relationship to the previous lineholder
• their recent fur harvest history with that trapline or one in the same section, as verified by royalties paid and sales receipts
• their residency in relationship to the trapline being allocated
The process maintains a balance by recognizing that local residents have preferential access to RTL lines, but also by being flexible in allowing trappers from other communities an opportunity to compete for a line.What does it mean to be an RTL lineholder?
What are the lineholder’s obligations?
Some RTL lines are in great demand, and it is unfair to others if a lineholder is not exercising the privilege that they have been given.
Lines can be re-allocated for the following reasons:
a) The lineholder has been totally inactive without just cause for two consecutive years.
b) The lineholder notifies the department, in writing, that he/she intends to give up his/her trapping privileges.
c) The lineholder fails to renew his/her RTL permit without just cause.
d) The lineholder dies.
Lineholders have responsibilities that include:
• using the resource that has been allocated
• ensuring that your actions do not jeopardize furbearer populations
• updating traps according to the latest certified humane standards
• upgrading your trapping techniques to maximize your pelt value
• voicing your opinions and concerns to your local organization and to Manitoba Conservation and Water Stewardship
• ensuring any improvements such as cabins have the proper permits
Record keeping and the RTL
All trappers should keep annual records of their activity through the trapping season, including when and where sets are placed, the dates and locations of where animals were caught, and when improvements are done on the line.
Records are an important tool in trapline management. Trappers can assess the relative abundance of animals over the years and judge when to “leave” an area for a season. Your own records will verify your activity on a line should you be eligible for compensation for disaster or mitigation programs. Records will also confirm that you are actually exercising the privilege of having a trapline.
When a trapper no longer holds an RTL line, permission to have the cabin ends and the trapper has no legal right to keep it in place.
Incoming lineholders are under no obligation to buy any improvements on the line, such as a cabin. As such, a trapping cabin should be built at low cost with the thought in mind that, if an incoming lineholder does not want to purchase it, the cabin can be removed.
The ability to erect a trapper cabin is a unique privilege afforded only to the lineholders. Use of a trapping cabin for purposes other than trapping, (for example, outfitting) is not allowed without prior approval.
How do I learn more about the RTL System?
Administration of the RTL System is set out through The Wildlife Act of Manitoba and its regulations, and through the Furbearer Management Policy. Copies are available from any Manitoba Conservation and Water Stewardship office. The Policy sets out guidelines and procedures for all trapping activities in Manitoba.
Furbearer Policy Review
The department undertook a public review in 2010 of proposed changes to the current policy. Regional meetings were held in Powerview, The Pas, Roblin, Swan River, and Thompson. Additional meetings were held by several other communities at their request. A summary of “What You Told Us” is available from the Wildlife Branch. Communities and groups are invited to submit their comments on furbearer management. A revised draft of the policy will be developed for review by trapper's organizations and participants.