Conservation officers will have the full power of peace officers, with legislation announced Friday.
"Conservation officers have an important role and carry the responsibility of protecting people and the environment," Conservation and Water Stewardship Minister Gord Mackintosh said. "As the third-largest armed law enforcement agency in the province, they deserve unique recognition without any ambiguity in law."
The proposed new conservation officers act would formally create an entity similar to a police service including provisions for establishing a complaints process.
Conservation officers, who enforce all resource-based legislation -- relating to wildlife, forestry, parks, Crown lands and wildfires -- will be officially transitioned from from natural resource officers, to help fulfill their role catching poachers, issuing summonses, conducting investigations and testifing in court.
If issues arise in the course of carrying out those duties, COs will have official enforcement authority.
What COs do From the province, a list of what natural resource officers, who would become conservation officers, deal with:
During the Folk Festival at Birds Hill Park in 2013, a suspect pulled a knife during an attempted robbery. A canine unit and natural resource officers were called out to track the suspect.
Teulon RCMP called in natural resource officers when a drug bust near Komarno turned up freezers full of fish belonging to a commercial fisherman. The fish had not been properly declared and Riverton natural resource officers seized the fish and charged the individual for fishery violations.
A Riverton natural resource officer encountered a subject parked north of Riverton near the Pine Dock Road, and it was discovered the subject had outstanding warrants and was in possession of narcotics. A natural resource officer detained the individual and RCMP were called to assist in apprehension.
A Riverton natural resource officer returning from a patrol of Hecla Provincial Park at 3 a.m. noticed a driver inside a vehicle parked on the causeway. The driver was found to be intoxicated, in possession of narcotics and had outstanding inter-provincial warrants. The suspect was detained and RCMP were called to assist in the arrest.
Illegal Fish Sales
A routine commercial fish inspection of restaurants in April 2013 discovered that a particular restaurant advertised pickerel (walleye) on their menu but the restaurant did not have a receipt from either the Freshwater Fish Marketing Corporation or from a commercial fisher. A total of 486 walleye, or about 900 pounds of fillets, were found on the premises and the owner was fined $1,500. The seized pickerel was forfeited to the Crown and donated to a local charity.
Social Media Videos Lead to Charge of Chasing Wildlife
Officers successfully tracked down the person responsible for chasing an elk on a dirt bike and videotaping another chase of an elk from a vehicle. Complaints about videos posted on social media dating back to September 2012 led officers to the accused. After a lengthy investigation, the accused pled guilty to chasing wildlife with a vehicle, which is a violation under the Wildlife Act, was fined $300 and given a two-year suspension from big game hunting.
Man Charged For Baited Hunting Of Deer (November 2013)
Officers came across a man walking away from a hunting stand near a pile of about
75 kilograms of oats and corn. Investigation determined the feed had been left to attract deer and the man had been hunting there. He was subsequently charged for hunting near the bait, pleaded guilty and was fined $673.65.
Poacher Charged For Illegal Hunting (January 2013)
Acting on a tip, officers investigated allegations that a hunter had illegally shot a whitetail deer and then entered the buck in two hunting contests. The buck won both contests, but information emerged the deer had actually been shot from a vehicle on a road within Hecla Provincial Park. Officers were able to find the original kill site and collected photographs and samples of deer hair that were sent for DNA analysis. Those samples were compared to the hide which was located at a local taxidermist and the hunter was charged with possessing illegally taken wildlife, hunting big game in a prohibited area and discharging a loaded firearm from a vehicle. The accused was found guilty and fined a total of $3,418.25 for the offences.
Undercover Operation Nets Conviction for Illegal Fish Sales (December 2013)
An undercover operation led to a conviction and a fine for selling fish illegally. After becoming aware of an individual selling fish in the Netley area near Stony Mountain, natural resource officers posed as customers and purchased approximately 50 pounds of walleye. Monitoring fish harvest and sales is important in setting annual quotas to ensure the total catch does not exceed lake production capacities and threaten the future of the fishery. The offender pleaded guilty to a charge of selling fish to other than the corporation and was fined $1,200.
Illegal Poaching and Wastage of Whitetail Deer (November 2013)
Acting on a tip, natural resource officers investigated the discovery of a deer carcass in a farmer's field. It is an offense under the Wildlife Act to abandon, waste or spoil any edible portion of a game bird or a big game animal. DNA samples taken from the kill area were tested and linked to a fresh white-tail buck deer head located in the hunter's garage. The hunter pleaded guilty to two charges and was fined $1,297 for illegal possession of the deer and $673 for wastage of the deer meat.
Manitoba-Ontario Joint Fish Investigation (October 2013)
An Ontario commercial fisher was fined $3,350 after he was charged with a number of offences including failing to comply with the conditions of his commercial fishing licence, obstructing a fisheries inspection and failing to provide information requested by an officer. This type of investigation demonstrates that conservation enforcement agencies co-operate to ensure fish harvests and illegal sales don't threaten the future of fisheries.
Anyone with information about illegal activities is asked to call their local Manitoba Conservation and Water Stewardship office or the Turn in Poachers (TIP) line at 1-800-782-0076 (toll-free).