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WHEREAS all rural Alberta communities benefit from the operation of the Fish and Wildlife Division of Alberta Sustainable Resource Development in sustaining a resource that brings in tourism dollars; AND WHEREAS operating budgets for Fish and Wildlife enforcement districts across Alberta have been slashed from 20 per cent to 50 per cent, despite the need for additional enforcement; AND WHEREAS Fish and Wildlife officers have been instructed to restrict their driving so as to not use up extremely tight budgets; AND WHEREAS most of the Fish and Wildlife budget is used for non-operational costs, leaving very little for programs; AND WHEREAS there is not adequate funding for preventative patrols to monitor hunting and fishing; AND WHEREAS West Nile virus and chronic wasting disease have become a concern for residents of all of Alberta; AND WHEREAS office support personnel and hours have been reduced to a bare minimum, making it hard for the public to reach the Fish and Wildlife Division;
THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED that the Alberta Association of Municipal Districts and Counties urge the Government of Alberta to increase funding to the Fish and Wildlife Division of Alberta Sustainable Resource Development in order to enable them to increase service and monitoring, and to make their presence an effective and positive contribution to tourism, the economy and wildlife in rural Alberta.
The Alberta Fish and Game Association has called for the provincial government to invest more money in fish and wildlife resources. Quoted from the Edmonton Journal, November 23, 2003, The provinces Fish and Wildlife officers say the governments decision to raise fines and penalties for poachers is much needed but useless unless budget cuts made over the past few years are reversed to allow them to get back into the field and track down the culprits. Quoted from April 26, 2004 Alberta Hansard (Legislative Assembly of Alberta), April 26, 2004, Let us not forget that tourism generates about $5 billion in economic activity for Alberta each year. One of the foremost reasons why people come here is to experience nature and the outdoors, something many of them cannot do in the towns, cities, or countries where they live. Quoted from Alberta Union of Provincial Employees, who represent Albertas 125 Fish and Wildlife Officers. Because of severe budget restrictions, Fish and Wildlife Officers are no longer able to patrol in Alberta in a proactive effort to curb the activities of poachers, illegal hunters and fishers. The Departments own statistics tell the story, MacLennan noted. In the 2000/2001 fiscal year, fish and wildlife officers made 230,000 contacts with the public. In 2001/2002 that was down to 116,000, and in the 2002/2003 fiscal year it has fallen to 70,000. The Departments own documentation states that proactive compliance checks are the best way to identify non-compliance with fisheries, wildlife and parks laws, MacLennan stated. There are three key reasons fish and wildlife officers need to be in the field, MacLennan said. Preventing harm to endangered species and other environmental damage. Protecting citizens and owners of livestock and property from such illegal activities as discharging firearms close to buildings and night hunting. Helping ensure Albertas tourism industry remains economically viable. The Edmonton Journal also obtained government documents that show prosecution of poachers have dropped in recent years. In July 2001, for example, 446 people were charged under the act. This July, 231 people were charged.
A $20 million increase for fish and wildlife officers and other front-line activities was announced in Budget 2005, following years of sustained cutbacks. The AAMDC will continue to advocate the new government for increased funding for the Fish and Wildlife Division. Sustainable Resource Development is increasing the fines for illegal off-roading in the northern forests and eastern slopes. The land use framework and integrated land management plan will look at the cumulative impact of such activities.