CONSERVATIONIST CALLS for MORE EDUCATION
This letter is even more pertinent in 2013, more than twenty-five years later, when we have so few conservation officers today and this very year the MNR has decided to discontinue the Ministry of Natural Resources Ontario Ranger Program and the Community Fishery and Wildlife Improvement Programs.
Open letter to Ministry of Natural Resources District Manager, October 1986
You may recall that at a recent public meeting hosted by you, we had occasion to meet, one on one, face to face, for the first time. For myself, I felt a personal satisfaction in putting a ‘face to a name’ as they say, with one whom I had spoken to and written to and on occasion sparred with!!
At that meeting Sir, you asked me, “Pat, you really believe in education don’t you?” Yes Sir, I really
believe in education, and you Sir, (the Ministry of Natural Resources) are charged with management of the greatest classroom on earth – the outdoors.
Human beings from the outset of life inherently recognize and love the beauty in nature. From the very first summer a curly haired toddler picks a bouquet of wildflowers for a loving mom, and a little boy chases brightly-winged butterflies, the love of nature is apparent, it is born in us. The sights, sounds and feel of nature fill the eye and stir the heart of every child.
This Sir is when we must catch the interest of every child. The time afforded us to accomplish this magnanimous task is most limited. A child in kindergarten is a fisherman tomorrow, a hunter in only ten years, and a parent educating the next generation in only twenty years. The task is immense. It cannot be left to the school classroom, local youth group, or the home environment.
We have to join forces, you and I, the public and the MNR, and together open the doors to this classroom. We have to take children hand-in-hand and teach them to see, to feel, to smell, to love, to respect, to care for, to use and to replenish the resources which are their natural legacy.
In this world, selfish lot that we homo-sapiens are, there is no greater pride than the pride of ownership. The first verbal utterances of a child decry ownership. Place two happy toddlers in a room together and within minutes you’ll hear screams of, “mine, mine!” We never truly outgrow that selfish emotion and that human frailty should be the footings for a firm foundation.
We don’t have the manpower to win the war through enforcement. We don’t have the budget to patrol every remote corner of our wilderness. We can’t and won’t change the habits of today’s adults, but we do have the manpower, the budget and the ability to mould the minds of tomorrow’s anglers, hunters, campers, and those who reap a livelihood from the land.
We can’t merely enforce people. We have to manage people too. SHARING and CARING. It seems the MNR doesn’t share and the people don’t care. What ever happened to Smokey the bear, to Tower Jack, to Chief Ranger George Keeley and the Junior Rangers??? What happened to the Conservation Officer who walked hand in hand with kids along a nature trail, or took the grade one class trekking for signs of spring; the third graders armed with nets and jars to the local bog hole;
the fifth graders to the dock to fish for perch, and the eight graders tree planting???”
Many of my childhood weekends were fun, spent learning from conservation officers. Queen’s Park managed a Conservation Education department.
The introduction of the CFIP and CWIP programs is a gigantic step forward, not only in the management of fish and wildlife, but also in the management of people. This working together of the MNR and the public is sharing and caring, something lost by and entire generation of Ontario’s young people.
The federal gov’t budgets enormous funds for Canadian Forces Cadet programs. The MNR would best invest its enforcement dollars into like programs of Junior Rangers throughout the province.
The MNR has begun to hold public information meetings and open houses at the district offices. How about outdoor educational programs with fire crew nozzle teams, water bombing demonstrations,, wildlife films, and a huge campfire sing-a-long? Such activities were annual fare for thousands down south. Conservation education reaps benefits far exceeding enforcement fines. We have to renew this system today.
We are very fortunate in Blind River District to have a fish and wildlife team who can say, “hats off’ after work. To them I say, “HATS OFF.”
To you Sir, the pleasure was all mine, may we continue to work together for a better tomorrow because, ‘This Land Is Your Land’ AND ‘This Land Is My Land’.
Yours most respectfully, Published North Shore Sentinel
Paton Lodge Lindsay October 1986