In 2019 the Manitoba government proclaimed October 1st as Conservation Officer Day, in appreciation for the hard work and vital role these officers play in the protection of wildlife and fisheries resources and the safety of citizens across the province.
Since that announcement, there have been significant changes to Manitoba's Conservation Officers abilities, tools of law enforcement and abilities.
Chief of the Manitoba Conservation Officers Division of Manitoba, Earl Simmons, has been very pleased with the positive changes and additions to his team over the past year, expanding their abilities as law enforcement officers in a number of ways.
Conservation officers' powers of authority have expanded to ensure that, though their main focus is fish and wildlife, if there is a significant Highway Traffic Act or a Liquor and Cannabis Act violation, they'll deal with those types of offences as well.
Duties of this specialized field of officers include enforcing moose closures throughout the province, commercial and recreational fishing compliance, utilizing helicopters with infra-red and night vision for night patrols, patrolling for night vision offences, and more. More enforcement vehicles have been added to their fleet, with the ability to use spike belts and patrol rifles.
"We hadn't been doing check stops for a number of years but we're back to doing check stops, and this is where we do fish and wildlife checks," explains Chief Simmons.
"We've done several at the US border at Emerson and Boissevain, checking people leaving the country to ensure compliance. But also check stops throughout the province to ensure that people are complying with fish and game laws, and at the same time if they encounter other offenses that are public safety concerns, such as impaired drivers, or no license or suspended license, or alcohol. They'll deal with those offenses at the same time."
"So, these have been well-received," he adds. "Most law-abiding citizens are happy to speak to our officers and so that's been very good."
Simmons says eight new conservation officer recruits started in the beginning of September and they just closed the competition to hire more conservation officers. When fully staffed Manitoba Conservation has close to 100 field officers, and an additional 94 seasonal patrol officers who work mostly in provincial parks across Manitoba during the summer months.
Duties of this specialized field of officers include enforcing moose closures throughout the province, commercial fishing compliance, utilizing helicopters with infra-red and night vision for night patrols. More enforcement vehicles have been added to their fleet, with the ability to use spike belts and patrol rifles.
"Our media releases let folks know what we're doing on the landscape," says Simmons. "Our goal at the end of the day is to get people to understand why we're out there, and that's to protect our natural resources."
Chief Simmons has demonstrated his passion and dedication to Manitoba's natural resources over his years in the department. In May of next year, he will have been with MB Conservation for 40 years.
"I've been so blessed," he shares. "I've been all over the province of Manitoba and have done some incredible work and have met lots of incredible people. I've seen a lot of incredible country and have been in every corner of the province. I've been able to see some really neat things that people only get to do on holidays. I get to fly all over, from the Northwest Territories and Nunavut with barren-ground caribou coming down into the province seeing thousands of caribou, and the wolves following them, to being on Lake Winnipeg on commercial fish patrol, to fighting forest fires on the east side of Lake Winnipeg."
"It's been pretty incredible, and now I'm honored to be the Chief Conservation Officer," he adds.
Please do listen to more with Chief Earl Simmons below!
Manitobans are asked to call the Turn in Poachers TIP Line at 1-800-782-0076 if they see hunting or fishing activity that compromises Manitoba's laws of conservation and protection of our province's natural resources.
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