Tom Fletcher: Conservation officers a thin green line

The B.C. government declared the first Conservation Officer Day on Nov. 4, to recognize the 110-year history of the service that started out as mostly volunteer “game wardens.”

This is overdue recognition for what is essentially a police force that only receives public notice when a bear or cougar has to be killed to protect people.

The ceremony at the B.C. legislature included awards. Chief Conservation Officer Doug Forsdick presented long-service medals and two commendations for lifesaving.

One was to CO Jason Hawkes, who rescued a family of four from their sinking boat on Kootenay Lake last June. He reached them in rough, windy conditions when they were waist-deep in water, far from shore.

The other went to CO Andrew Anaka, for rescuing an angler from an overturned boat, whom he found “extremely hypothermic” at the base of a cliff at a lake near Powell River on Jan. 22. A second angler didn’t make it to shore.

An exemplary service medal went to CO Micah Kneller, who caught up with Fort Nelson RCMP officers and paramedics on Sept. 6, as they treated a hunter who had been attacked by a grizzly in a remote area. As darkness fell, Kneller found a second injured hunter, got the group together, built a fire and assisted until a rescue helicopter from CFB Comox lifted the hunters out at 3 a.m.

NDP environment critic Spencer Chandra Herbert had a couple of things on his mind at the event. He relayed a report from the B.C. Government Employees’ Union that there has been a 10 per cent cut in CO staff since 2002.

Not so, replied Environment Minister Mary Polak. The number has “hovered around 148” in that time, she said, including seasonal staff for peak hunting and fishing periods.

Polak said extra investment has gone into trucks that serve as mobile command centres, so people aren’t sitting in offices waiting for the phone to ring. They patrol more and respond faster, which can be vital.

Chandra Herbert also blasted the government for a “donation” of $100,000 from the Freshwater Fishing Society of B.C. to increase angling enforcement this summer, adding more seasonal CO days. “What’s next, bake sales?” he said.

The real story is a bit more complicated. In March I reported that the B.C. Liberal government finally made good on a decade-old promise to turn over all revenue from freshwater fishing licence sales to the society.

Its revenue went from $7 million to $10 million once the government finally ended the practice of skimming some off for the general treasury.

Energy Minister Bill Bennett recalled that the society was established during the first years of Gordon Campbell’s government, a period of what Bennett called “religious zeal” for privatization.

The society spends most of its budget restocking lakes with trout and promoting responsible angling, but its new 30-year service contract also calls on it to contribute to enforcement. This is the first year that has happened, and Polak said the extra fishing violation tickets indicate it is working.

The CO service also works on cases such as the Mount Polley mine breach. It has a commercial environmental enforcement unit, a special investigations unit to deal with smuggling and organized crime, and an intelligence analyst. In short, they’re real cops, working with a group of about 150 compliance officers at the Ministry of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations.

They don’t get much respect from an urban public informed by celebrity wildlife protesters such as Pamela Anderson, Miley Cyrus and Ricky Gervais.

 

 

 

Tom Fletcher is legislature reporter and columnist for Black Press. Twitter: @tomfletcherbc Email: tfletcher@blackpress.ca

 

 

Just Posted

Commen-Terry: Helping Hands to benefit flood victims

Fundraising concert Feb. 7 in Courtenay for those affected by Mariner Apartment flood

Home care complaints up 45% on Vancouver Island

Number of home care hours delivered down 6%, complaints up 45 %

K’ómoks First Nation re-elects Chief Rempel

Chief Rempel re-elected for her second term; three new Councillors elected

Comox council allocates $20,000 for dog park consultation

With interim measures in place, Comox council has decided to proceed with… Continue reading

Vehicle collides with building in downtown Courtenay

No major injuries were reported late Monday morning as a car drove… Continue reading

UPDATE: B.C. legislature managers accused of excessive travel, personal expense claims

Clerk Craig James, security chief Gary Lenz call allegations ‘completely false’

YANA Online Auction runs until Feb. 8

Items include four pairs of tickets to sold-out Big Love Dinner

North Island College Activity Assistant program returns

Learn more at a free information session Feb. 9 - pre-registration required

No cash, no election sign policy pondered by B.C. city

A deposit could be required to put up election signs in 2022.

China demands US drop Huawei extradition request with Canada

China detained two Canadians on Dec. 10 in an apparent attempt to pressure Canada to release Meng

9 brains, 3 hearts: Some wild facts about octopuses

Things to know about the giant Pacific octopus, which is naturally found in the waters of the U.S. West coast, the Aleutian Islands and Japan

Hollywood announces 2019 Oscar nominations

Netflix has scored its first best picture nomination, something the streaming giant has dearly sought

Auto shop apologizes after Vancouver Island employees disrespect memorial convoy

Mr. Lube staff members suspended after incident Sunday in Nanaimo

B.C. man fined $10,000 after leaving moose to suffer before death

Surrey man was convicted last week on three Wildlife Act charges

Most Read