During the current stay-at-home order, those who want to get outside and enjoy fishing, hunting, hiking and other outdoor pursuits will have to make sure they abide by the pandemic restrictions in place.
And as always, conservation officers from the Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry will be here to make sure our natural resources laws and emergency order rules are followed. There are hunting and angling laws and regulations at all times, not just during the pandemic. Ontario’s Burning Regulations have been in effect since April 1 in northern Ontario when fire season began. The current state of emergency has prohibited recreational camping on Crown land due to the pandemic. And it’s up to conservation officers to make sure that these rules and restrictions are enforced, in order to protect people, wildlife, fish, lands and forests.
It’s a big responsibility, shouldered by a pretty small number of conservation officers – fewer than 170 in total for the entire province. For years, there has been a severe shortage of conservation officers – not nearly enough to protect our natural resources.
That’s why OPSEU/SEFPO welcomes the Ontario Government’s announcement that they will be hiring 25 new conservation officers. It’s a great start.
But there is still a big issue that needs to be addressed, and that is compensation. Despite having police college training, and similar job duties to police as well as inspectors and investigators in other OPS ministries, conservation officers are paid tens of thousands less per year than comparable positions to theirs. Bad pay affects retention – experienced conservation officers often leave for better pay in other ministries and agencies, and many qualified applicants don’t bother applying.
If you want to hire and retain the best people to protect Ontario’s natural resources – and no doubt about it, our conservation officer members are the best – you have to show you value them by paying them properly.
Our natural resources, and the Ontarians who enjoy them, are worth every penny.
Information flyer: Conservation officers need fair pay now
Shortage of Conservation Officers Could Threaten Ontario’s Natural Resources (Ontario Federation of Anglers and Hunters Insider)