The 20 conservation officers sworn in last spring are now at work in various locations throughout the province, including the only Okanagan posting in Vernon.
The new faces mark the largest influx of recruits the B.C. Conservation Officer Service (BCCOS) has had in 10 years. They will fill existing vacancies and newly-funded positions in locations with the highest need and areas where retirements are imminent.
“We have some communities that haven’t seen a new conservation officer for a very long time so these new recruits will significantly improve services,” said George Heyman, Minister of Environment and Climate Change Strategy. “Our government recognizes how important it is to put more boots on the ground to help protect our natural resources and wildlife, and lessen human-wildlife conflicts.”
The 160 conservation officers throughout B.C. are located in 45 communities and work on a zone-coverage basis, where they respond to complaints and concerns anywhere in the zone. Several factors are looked at when determining where a new conservation officer should be posted, such as call volume, zone coverage and staffing levels.
Sixteen of the new recruits are fresh out of the Western Conservation Law Enforcement Academy in Hinton, Alta. and will spend the next six months working with a field trainer. The other four officers come from law enforcement jurisdictions elsewhere.
“It’s an exciting time for the B.C. Conservation Officer Service. Communities and stakeholder groups are excited to see new officers out in the field protecting B.C.’s fish and wildlife, keeping citizens safe and ensuring our environment is sustainable for years to come,” said Doug Forsdick, chief conservation officer. “The new resources will enhance officer safety with a doubling of all of our single officer posts. Areas with high-call volume and emerging pressures will also see an increase in staffing.”
Besides Vernon, this year’s newly created positions are located in the following locations:
* Grand Forks;
* Bella Coola;
* Port McNeil;
* Haida Gwaii;
* North Fraser zone (two positions);
The remaining eight conservation officers will fill posts in Quesnel, Terrace, Creston, Prince George, Merritt, Fort St. John and the Lower Mainland (two positions).