I thought it was more than just a little absurd last month when
somebody - either on the 'comment' section of the CBC website or a
radio talk show - suggested that part of the reasoning behind
government's decision to cut the guts out of fish and game protection
resources was to clear the path for future development proposals.
“Now that’s a bit much,” I recall saying. “A little too dramatic, don’t
The next day I read a newspaper report, quoting Corner Brook’s
Don Ivany of the Atlantic Salmon Federation, who said cuts from the
Wildlife Division include people who were responsible for managing
biodiversity, species at risk and the environmental assessment process
which development projects have to go through.
The day after, I read that during a conference call with the media,
Finance Minister Jerome Kennedy was asked if the Wildlife Division was
targeted in the recent budget cutbacks for more reasons than saving
There’s a reason that reporter is asking this question, I figured. He
knows more about this than I do. What’s the minister’s reaction?
“I can tell you the shale oil potential on the west coast is
enormous,” the minister said, “and it could, to a certain extent, hold
the future of the west coast of Newfoundland and the Northern
Peninsula. But that is not going to be developed at all costs. There have
to be environmental processes and regulations in place. We have a
beautiful province with a pristine environment and I have never heard -
at the cabinet table or elsewhere - any minister saying we are going to
develop at any and all cost. That’s not how we operate here.”
Okay, so do you actually feel relieved by that response, or was that
website/radio comment not so far “off the wall” as I originally thought?
Surely no government would consider for a moment putting our fish
and wildlife resources - our tradition, our livelihood, our passion, who
we are – at risk in the name of “development.” It would be comparable
to suggesting or even hinting river privatization, which would amount
to political suicide in the first degree.
So what is it? Why did the Kathy Dunderdale administration
eliminate 30 percent of the province’s Wildlife Division staff and 20
percent of Inland Fish and Wildlife Enforcement?
Who advised her? Do they still have jobs?
Public service cutbacks were probably necessary/warranted - for
the sake of budget balancing - in some departments during the most
recent budget, even though they will ultimately affect us all in many
different ways. But nowhere was it more severe and ill-advised than on
the resource management agencies whose job it is to protect our fish
and wildlife resources.
This is Newfoundland and Labrador, folks – the land of mud trout,
salmon, moose, rabbits, turrs, blueberries… it’s what/who we are and
have always been. We cannot sit back and let one administration pick
away at that; not after the progress and improvements former premier
Danny Williams made in recent years.
Impending rampant poaching is undoubtedly the primary concern
of hunters and anglers in the province right now. I’ve spoken to many
of them and the Sportsman recently posted a report on the cutbacks on
our Facebook page as well, asking “friends” for their views. The
negative reaction to these cutbacks was fast and furious.
“You won’t need to apply for a moose licence this year,” my friend
Johnny noted during a conversation at the office; “just go on out and
Did anyone involved in this decision stop to think for more than
five seconds what effect this is going to have on our fish and game?
One enforcement officer to cover hundreds and hundreds of kilometres
of rivers, trails and highway on the Northern Peninsula? You cannot be
serious! And let’s not forget or downplay the effect that these cuts will
have on the economy.
I ran into a conservation officer recently who told me morale is at
an all-time low, citing a total lack of support by their departmental
executive as the primary reason he and others will be looking to leave
the civil service.
As an angler, hunter and editor of this magazine for 23 years, I’m
constantly in contact – through phone calls, letters, emails, on the road
and even in grocery stores and shopping malls – with whom I refer to
as “average” Newfoundlanders and Labradorians – just like me. And
we’re not the least bit pleased or in agreement with these latest
cutbacks to our valued fish and game resources. It demonstrates a lack
of regard for these resources, and mark my words, votes will be lost as
a result come the next election.
I’ve witnessed organizational changes and policy decisions over
the years that simply defy logic and are clearly political. As it was, the
responsibilities for wildlife management, enforcement and landscape
management and protection were already spread across many different
departments (which just boggles the mind; who the hell came up with
this?), making a seemingly simple request for a permit, a licence or an
answer to a question, an all-day affair.
And of course it goes without saying that the 150,000 anglers and
hunters in the province are going to suffer and even be forced to
change their lifestyle in some ways. Now that’s a scary thought.
These latest cuts may indeed be the final nail in the coffin for our
beloved wildlife and natural beauty that we call Newfoundland and
Labrador. When there are no longer any moose to hunt, fish to catch or
parks to camp in, we’ll have lost what makes us Newfoundlanders and
Unless this decision is reversed – and soon – it won’t be long
before we’ll look at what’s left of those resources and be constantly
and painfully reminded of a famous quote from former premier Brian
Peckford: “She’s gone, b’y, she’s gone.”