Letter: Discharging firearms

Dear Editor:

During her address to delegates of the Manitoba Wildlife Federation (MWF) annual convention, March 31, 2017, the Manitoba Minister of Sustainable Development, Cathy Cox, announced the government of Manitoba would implement a ban on the practice of nightlighting in the developed areas of our province, September 2017. The proposed limited ban on the practice of night-lighting is a direct result of the joint public awareness campaign conducted by the MWF and the Association of Manitoba Municipalities (AMM) exposing the inherent danger in discharging firearms at night with a simple question. Where is it safe to do so?

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Although the Ministers announcement was well received by MWF convention delegates it appears to have been premature. Many delegates recognized that the province does not have the enforcement capacity to enforce a proposed night-lighting ban. In March 2017 there were reported to be fewer than 90 full-time Natural Resource Officers (NRO) in Manitoba, reduced from an earlier number of 145. MWF convention delegates unanimously adopted a resolution that if accepted by the Pallister government would restore the number of NRO in Manitoba to their former level and increase salaries by $4.00 per hour to achieve pay equity with NRO salaries in Saskatchewan. The fact that Manitoba NRO are among the lowest paid in Canada has made both recruitment and retention difficult. Reliable sources have informed us that as many as 33 Manitoba NRO will be eligible to retire over the next five years. The current wage freeze is not helpful.

Some game populations in agro Manitoba are in serious decline due to the combined effects of habitat loss and over harvest. The decline in some game populations is taking place at a time when pressure from rights based hunters and poachers are increasing. With limited availability of crown lands, hunting pressure is gravitating towards harvesting the remaining Moose populations that reside on private land. This situation not only leads to serious conflicts between hunters and landowners, it presents challenges to enforcement officers. If an enforcement officer suspects that hunters have entered private land without landowner permission, the officer must confirm his suspicion by contacting the landowner directly. It is often difficult for the officer to contact the landowner to verify the access to the property had been granted. In many cases, when contacted landowners are reluctant to lay trespass charges in fear of possible retaliation and the prospect of having to endure the cost and time needed to appear in court to support the charge.

The province has effectively discouraged hunters from trespassing on private land in general hunting area (GHA) 33 and part of GHA 38, close to the city of Winnipeg. In these two GHA the onus us placed upon the hunter to obtain written permission from the landowner prior to entering the property. If enforcement officers encounter a hunter upon a property in these areas and he or she fails to produce a written permission slip signed by the landowner the hunter is automatically charged with trespassing. The landowner has no direct involvement in the laying of the charge. Local governments and areas affiliates of the MWF may want to consider extending the signed access requirement, on an experimental basis to one or more of the GHA in southwestern Manitoba. We feel that a majority of landowners who provide our big game habitat and hunting opportunities, without compensation would welcome the protection such an initiative could provide.

Wayne Dobbie, Alexander, MB
Fred Tait, Rossendale, MB

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