Getting out to the trapline is going to be harder this year after transport subsidies to trapping and hunting families were slashed in half.

The subsidy cut was decided by the James Bay Eeyou Corporation last summer after falling revenues at the compensation funds it manages.

The trappers’ subsidy wasn’t the only thing affected. Bands will be getting about 25 percent less this year for community projects and economic development, said Sam Tapiatic, general manager of the corporation’s Mitigating Works Sotrac 1986 Fund.

The $34.7-million mitigating works fund provides a yearly subsidy to the nine local Cree Trappers’ Associations used to subsidize airlifts, transport and gasoline for trapping families.

The subsidy has fallen several times in recent years. Last year, the local CTAs got a total of $2.3 million, down from $2.7 million in 1999.

The cuts have some community members worried about getting out to their camps. In Waswanipi, the yearly subsidy was $250,000 in the mid-1990s. Last year, the local CTA got $125,000. This year, it’s only $65,000.

Eastmain’s subsidy dropped from $90,000 last year to only $45,000. Residents there are worried the spring helicopter airlift will be canceled or drastically reduced.

“The spring airlift is in jeopardy. It will be reduced in spring 2001,” confirmed one CTA official.

In some communities, CTA officials are hoping the subsidy cut will be offset by a contribution from the band.

But other CTA officials fear that many bands are facing their own financial problems. Tapiatic noted that the bands are also seeing less money from the Eeyou Corporation this year. “Everybody’s having a hard time,” he said.

Tapiatic dispelled a rumour that the subsidies were cut because of $900,000 in funds that are going to assist trappers affected by forestry. “It didn’t have any effect on our revenues,” he said.

Tapiatic explained that the forestry-related payments were taken out of the capital of the mitigating-works fund, not the annual revenues.

The Cree Regional Authority has promised the money will be paid back when a forestry deal is signed with Quebec.

A CTA official in Eastmain also dispelled another rumour that the spring airlift is being cut back because of an alleged theft at the regional CTA office in Eastmain.

The CTA official said the alleged theft was “very unfortunate,” but it affected only the regional CTA office, not the local CTA which subsidizes the airlift.

The theft was allegedly committed by an employee who no longer works for the CTA and has since left the community, said the CTA official. The organization lost at least $19,500 and possibly as much as $25,000, he said.

Police were not called in because there was no hope of recovering the funds and the CTA would have had to spend up to $8,000 more in legal fees fighting the case.