Conservation Officer

As a conservation officer, you have a variety of responsibilities, including promoting compliances with environmental legislation through public education, public involvement, and awareness. You are often responsible for enforcing provincial and federal environmental regulations governing the protection of wildlife, fisheries, and natural resources, and have the authority afforded that of a peace officer as outlined under the criminal code of Canada. You are always on call to respond to public complaints and protect our natural resources.

At a Glance

Imagine it is barely dawn and the warm morning temperature promises that today will be another scorcher, even at your remote station. You jump into your four-wheel-drive Jeep and start off down an old logging trail. You are a conservation officer and today you are headed to a section in the northeast part of your patrol. You have been receiving reports of campfires in that area, even though there is a complete fire ban in the district. With the dry summer conditions, campfires are extremely dangerous: one errant spark could start a blazing forest fire. This morning you hope to find the group responsible and stop them before they light another fire.

As one of a small group of conservation officers in this district, you know the area fairly well. From reports received, you have a good idea of where this group is. You head out to that area and find campers boiling water for their morning coffee over an illegal fire. You explain to the group the dangerous consequences of their campfire and issue them a ticket. They seem receptive enough, but since you will be in the area all day, you make a note to visit them again in the evening, to make sure they don't start any more fires. In the meantime, you make your rounds among the area's few residents.

Part of your job as a conservation officer is to build strong relationships with the public, so you work hard to maintain a friendly rapport with your neighbours. Often they are your eyes and ears in areas where you can't be everyday, so they report illegal activity such as campfires and poaching. By enforcing the campfire ban and laws prohibiting wildlife poaching, you are working to ensure the conservation of Canada's environment.

Job Duties

Duties vary significantly from job to job, but the following list includes typical job duties one might encounter as a conservation officer:

  • Patrol natural areas to ensure their conservation and protection.
  • Enforce all environmental legislation, including issuing tickets and subpoenas.
  • Check hunting and fishing parties for licenses, bag limits, and compliance with safety regulations, for example, boating safety, firearm safety, and snowmobile, and ATV safety.
  • Investigate complaints of non-compliance with natural resource laws, including pollution of waters, destruction of fish and wildlife habitat, importation of endangered or non-native species, and poaching reports.
  • Prepare files for court briefings, continuity of evidence, and consultations with the Crown Prosecutor.
  • Administration of Crown land, including road allowances, land issues, intercept feeding, and lake stocking.
  • Advise the public on safety issues, for example, campfires and potentially dangerous wildlife.

Work Environment

Conservation officers work in a variety of locations, including, but not limited to:

In the field:

  • Patrolling areas and investigating complaints
  • Monitoring and enforcing compliance with environmental regulations, and issuing tickets to offenders
  • Responding to emergency situations

In the office:

  • Doing paperwork and documenting complaints and actions taken
  • Communicating on the phone and in meetings with government departments and the public

Where to Work

Most conservation officers are employed by federal or provincial/territorial agencies responsible for environmental legislation and enforcement.

Education and Skills

If you are a high school student considering a career as a conservation officer, you should have strong marks or an interest in:

  • Biology
  • Physical Education/Outdoor Education
  • Legal Studies
  • Geography
  • Mathematics

In most cases, the minimum education requirement to work as a conservation officer is a technical diploma. If you are a post-secondary student considering a career as a conservation officer, the following programs are most applicable:

  • Renewable Resource Management
  • Natural Resource Management
  • Law
  • Fish and Wildlife
  • Ecosystem Management
  • Biology and Environmental Studies

In most cases, conservation officers must pass a criminal record check and a physical fitness exam. They may also be required to take weapons and defence training and should consider taking a diploma in law enforcement or the equivalent.

Role Models

Andy Cook

Even though Andy Cook always knew he wanted to be a conservation officer, it took time and patience for him to find the right position. After finishing high school, he learned there was a long waiting list for the integrated resource management program he needed to take. So he enrolled in the two-year forest technician college program, and he's never looked back. Summer jobs fighting forest fires with the Government of Saskatchewan helped him get into the three-year integrated forest management program at the National Indian Forestry Institute in Meadow Lake, Saskatchewan, which in turn helped him get his foot in the door to the job he always wanted, conservation officer.

Today the fieldwork he does has a lot of variety. "Our main duties are to look after the trees, the fish, the wildlife, the lands. In forestry work, you have to monitor the forestry companies, where they are cutting and how much. In fisheries, you are looking after the anglers out there-making sure they don't go over the catch limits. We take care of wildlife, going out on patrol and checking out hunters and outfitters to make sure they are adhering to acts and regulations. We also get into lands. We issue mineral exploration permits and go out and do inspections." What does he enjoy most about his work? "I'd say it is going out in the field and talking to folks who are enjoying the resource and not abusing it. If they are fishing, they might just catch one or two, just enough to have a shore lunch. I say to myself that there is nothing else in the world I'd rather be doing, being outdoors and dealing with the public."

Your Impact

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