Conservation Officers Call On Government to Remember Natural Resources During Upcoming Budget
May 3, 2004
In first week of Southern Ontario�s Turkey and Trout seasons, the Ontario Conservation Officers Association (OCOA) is calling on Premier Dalton McGuinty and Natural Resources Minister David Ramsay to increase the MNR Enforcement program funding levels in the upcoming budget to ensure that fish and wildlife are adequately protected this year.
�The MNR budget was slashed in the mid 1990s and has suffered years of fiscal neglect since then. You couple this with increases to basic operating costs and you have reduced the ability of Ontario Conservation Officers to provide effective enforcement of the complex laws that protect our natural resources� states OCOA President Jim McMullen. �This is of great concern to our association, and to the thousands of responsible outdoor enthusiasts, especially during the spring hunting and fishing seasons which are one of the busiest times across Ontario for the 200+ Conservation Officers.�
�Funding levels in recent years have been reduced to the point where officers are now having to share vehicles because they cannot afford to repair the existing fleet and the replacement strategy falls short of being adequate, again, reducing the ability to effectively patrol the vast areas they are responsible for� continued McMullen. Throughout the 1990�s, overtime budgets virtually disappeared, directly affecting the ability for officers to respond to complaints or to continue complex investigations at the end of their shift.
In Southern Ontario, operating budgets for the enforcement program have been reduced to the point that Districts have had to leave vacant Conservation Officer positions unfilled for, in some cases, 3 and 4 years. This has essentially reduced the number of Conservation Officers in the field and the officers remaining are stretched to the limit, and in many cases unable to provide the protection our resources deserve.
�Without adequate funding, operating an effective natural resource enforcement program for 12 months is never guaranteed. An unexpected major equipment repair could break a districts ability to continue with what the public expects in terms of natural resource protection� says McMullen.
The Ontario Conservation Officers want to let hunters, fisherman, the general public and especially the poachers know that we will be out working in the months ahead with all the resources we are given to protect public safety and our valuable wildlife and fisheries resources from illegal activity.
�The OCOA has had some positive discussions with Minister David Ramsay on several issues, but need the Dalton McGuinty Government to recognize the enforcement program funding short-falls and to bring staffing and equipment levels back to where they were in the early 90�s, and ultimately to put the field officers back in the field where they should be.� said McMullen.