SUDBURY -- Bear outfitters in the region are pleased with plans the province has to permanently bring back the spring bear hunt.

The spring hunt was cancelled years ago, only to be brought back as a pilot project in a limited capacity.

Mickey Major, of the Northern Ontario Bear Management Association, says outfitter’s businesses really struggled without the spring hunt.

"A lot of bear outfitters got out of the business, and those that stayed, offered a fall bear hunt. Some of those outfitters just backed off significantly, because most of their clientele were spring hunters, when there’s not a lot going on," said Major.

Nickel Belt MPP France Gelinas says cancelling the bear hunt was hard for her constituents.

"For the outfitters it was devastating, most of their income came from the spring bear hunt and at that time a lot of them went out of business, a lot of them lost their lodge," said Gelinas.

The pilot project will finish this year and the outfitters are being told that the province plans on bringing back the spring bear hunt permanently starting in 2021. However, the outfitters would still like to see a few more changes, including additional permits for non-residents and control over bear management areas.

Bear-O-Rama owner Mike Beauparlant says there’s always more work to be done.

"We were requesting six changes and they’ve implemented three, so we’re working toward a positive impact on the economy and the tourism industry. It’s all a good step in the right direction. The ministry is working with the outfitters and hunters," said Beauparlant.

Algoma-Manitoulin MPP Michael Mantha says it’s going to be nice seeing familiar faces returning to the area and a great boost for the local economy.

"It’s going to give outfitters more security and more certainty, so that they can go out and have the return of the previous individuals that would come and harvest in the area," said Mantha.

He also wants to make sure the next steps are made carefully.

"Let’s make sure that the decisions that are made going forward are based on the best scientific information that is available, making sure that we have the level of individuals, biologists, field technicians that we need from the MNR, to making sound decisions," said Mantha.

The government has yet to officially announce the plan to bring back the spring bear hunt permanently, but hunters are encouraged. The association is making a list of recommendations for the government to consider.

John Yakabuski, of the Minister of Natural Resources and Forestry, issued a statement in regards to the spring bear hunt:

"We are listening to the concerns of northern Ontarians and the tourism industry, that an ongoing pilot spring season, which has been in place since 2014, creates economic uncertainty. Establishing a regular spring season would provide certainty for outfitters, continue to provide opportunities for resident hunters, and help support tourism in northern and rural Ontario. A regular season was also recommended by Ontario’s Big Game Management Advisory Committee."

Yakabuski encourages all those interested to provide comments on the ministry’s proposal by Feb. 18, 2020.