A plea from advocates for Manitoba fish and wildlife populations
Dear Mr. or Ms. Future Premier,
let us introduce ourselves. We are the Manitoba Outdoor Community, a group of anglers, hunters and trappers that numbers more than 250,000 individuals.
We are passionate and treasure our time outdoors.
We are tireless advocates for fish and wildlife populations — and when it comes to working to ensure healthy habitats and sustainable wild-animal populations, we put our time and money where our collective mouths are.
Our passions run deep and this causes us to spend too much money on our outdoor pursuits, generating more than $470 million for the Manitoba economy, ranking us a key business venture for this province.
We are prime investors in the natural world and in return we receive organic, top-quality meat and fish fillets that nourish our families. Our time outdoors provides memories and moments that bind communities together and define who we are as individuals.
Because we care so much, we are a force to be reckoned with.
We are made up of people from every ethnicity and socioeconomic class. We are union workers, indigenous people, white-collar professionals and everything in between. On the streamside, in the field and hunkered down in a duck blind, we are all equals with a common bond found in our love of all things wild.
But we haven’t been feeling the love from the province for a very long time.
In fact, cuts to the funding for fish and wildlife management have been going on for so many decades, we don’t remember the last time we were a priority.
We realize money is tight but, honestly, would it be too much to ask that decisions regarding the province’s fish and wildlife be science-based and not driven by political agendas?
Lake Winnipeg is the most important fishery in the province. Thousands of Manitoba angling families, hundreds of commercial fishers, dozens of aboriginal communities and untold numbers of visiting American anglers depend on this world-class walleye lake.
And yet, fishery managers have too little information to properly manage Lake Winnipeg and decisions on annual quotas are seemingly made by politicians, not fish biologists.
We hate that.
Manitoba’s big-game populations are in free fall. Funding is not available to count the animals or estimate how many are being harvested. We need you to show tremendous leadership and courage in pulling together indigenous and licensed hunters to have those sensitive and, at times, difficult discussions required to create a new system that manages harvest so there will be moose, elk and caribou for future generations of Manitobans to enjoy and admire.
Most of us haven’t been checked by a conservation officer while fishing or hunting in years. That’s because there aren’t many officers left.
Manitoba currently has approximately 90 officers in the field, down from 140 some 20 years ago. Moose numbers have crashed in the last 20 years, partly because there aren’t enough conservation officers in the field to protect them and the poachers and trespassers engaged in the illegal trade in wild meat know it.
Mr. or Ms. Premier, we stand ready, willing and able to do just about anything to ensure Manitoba regains it’s international reputation as a place that looks after its fish and wildlife as well as the people who treasure it the most.
(By the way, we would be thrilled to take you outdoors and teach you the skills required to make your own fabulous wild-game dinner.)
Rob Olson is the managing director of the Manitoba Wildlife Federation
Source: Winnipeg Free Press