By Austin M. Davis
REGINA — After 16 years without changes, Saskatchewan’s hunting and fishing laws are getting tougher, a move that has the support of wildlife groups.
For Russ Becker, representing the South Saskatchewan Wildlife Association, one of the highlights of the Wildlife Amendment Act, introduced on Tuesday, is that people who have had their hunting rights suspended in other jurisdictions will now be prohibited from buying a Saskatchewan hunting licence.
“It happens all the time. If they can’t hunt here (due to suspension), they’ll go and get a licence in Alberta,” Becker said. “If you want to be an unethical hunter, then you shouldn’t be hunting.
“I was a policeman for years. Impaired driving (laws are) the same thing. If you lose your driving privileges here, you don’t have them in other provinces either and I think that it should be the same thing with hunting and fishing.”
There is an advisory board to the federal government working on establishing a database that would provide names of suspended hunters to all jurisdictions.
Becker said all members of his hunting and fishing organization, which teaches firearm safety and hunter education, are in favour of the provincial changes.
Environment Minister Scott Moe said consultations with individuals and organizations have been taking place for some time. The changes will presevere the province’s wildlife for those who do follow the laws.
The new legislation will stipulate that the most serious conservation offences will carry an automatic two-year suspension, unless the matter ended up in a court and a judge decided otherwise.
“An example of those offences might be if you were hunting from an aircraft, hunting while under the influence of alcohol, chasing wildlife with a vehicle or poisoning an animal,” Moe said,
Those convicted on three separate occasions for wildlife offences will receive a lifetime ban, prohibiting the purchase of hunting licences. People who fail to pay wildlife-related fines will be prohibited from buying a licence until their fines are paid.
Darrell Crabbe, Saskatchewan Wildlife Federation executive director, said his group also supports the amendments for increasing the protection of Saskatchewan’s hunting and fishing resources, which generate $500 million a year in revenue in economic spinoff.
“Poaching is probably the No. 1 negative issue out there. It paints hunters and anglers with a very poor image and certainly, when people are taking the animals that should be done through licensing and permits and are doing it illegally, it hurts everybody,” Crabbe said.
He said trophy sets of antlers are still the easiest poaching opportunity with the most lucrative resale value.
The act also lengthens the time wildlife officers have to bring wildlife violation charges forward, from two years to three years.