2020 certainly presented its challenges. Covid-19 has changed the lives of many, directly and indirectly, in ways that we could not have predicted. Amidst the pandemic, MWF was forced to close the office, layoff staff and cancel pretty much all our events and programs. We adjusted and found alternative ways to keep our core operations running, adapt to virtual solutions, and continue to advocate for the issues most important to our members. We are extremely proud of how our Staff, Executive Committee and Members adjusted, worked together, and made huge strides to ensure MWF ended the year of the pandemic on solid ground.
2020 was a year for the books. The following are some highlights and significant accomplishments made over the last 12 months. On behalf of our Staff and Executive Committee, thank you all for your ongoing support and loyalties, we look forward to 2021 and continuing to build a stronger Federation.
January – April
- MWF improved communications to our membership with weekly E-newsletters, a fresh new website, correlated magazine content, and overhauled our social media strategies.
- Held regional meetings in Winnipeg, Brandon, and Dauphin.
- Partnered with RM’s around Lake Winnipeg to improve access for ice anglers.
- Successfully advocated the Government to stop the SnoMan Proposal – which proposed a mandatory trail pass fee on snowmobile registrations.
- Participated in a Learn to Ice Fish day at Fort Whyte, presented to the Carman Collegiate on Manitoba Hunting and Fishing opportunities and was a huge part of the annual Outdoors Show held at The Assiniboine Downs.
- MWF staff presented to Waywayseecappo School on Chronic Wasting Disease and Hunting and Angling Recruitment Initiatives. The presentation was well received, and they look forward to partnering with us in the future on Hunter Education and other possible initiatives.
- Assisted the Dauphin Fish and Wildlife Club with issues relating to the lack of enforcement on the Lake Dauphin Fishery. After discussions with both Ministers, enforcement on the Lake was increased.
- The Federal Liberal Government launched changes to firearm legislation which outraged many Federation members. The MWF wrote numerous letters to government officials, provided form letters to our membership to send to their MPs and MLAs, distributed a survey to the membership about their views around the legislation, encouraged members to join other national firearms organizations, and we distributed online petitions to our membership. MWF staff also participated in roundtable strategic planning discussions with partners from Ontario Federation of Anglers and Hunters (OFAH), the National Fishing and Hunting Collaborative (NFHC) and Federal opposition parties.
- MWF organized a meeting with the Lake Winnipeg Walleye Working Group and were successful in getting the commercial fishing net size change implemented by the province.
- Attended a meeting with Minister Blaine Pedersen (Dept. of Agriculture and Resource Development) and advocated for the Wildlife and Fisheries Branches to receive a strategic review and reorganization, as well for vacant staff positions to be filled. We pitched a proposal on a new WMA management plan, asked for special attention to be directed to the Lake Winnipeg Fishery, Shared Management, and to the Fish and Wildlife Enhancement Fund (FWEF). We are pleased to report that all the above requests were fulfilled before the year end (details below).
- Met with Minister Sarah Guillemard (Dept. of Climate and Conservation) to speak on the following issues brought forward by our members and clubs: Improved enforcement strategies, reinstatement of night-flight enforcement, increased communications around enforcement, the Nopiming Park Management Plan, and the 4-Wheeler Trail Proposal for Nopiming Park.
- After years of advocating, the MWF was pleased to see the government finally launch an elicensing system. Although the new system had some initial problems the bugs were mostly worked out by the time deer season was upon us.
May – August
- MWF experienced some staff changes:
-Noel Linsey left for a new challenge with Manitoba Lodges and Outfitters Assoc. (MLOA).
-Kathleen Melnychuk left to pursue farm insurance and help her husband with the farm in Arborg.
-We hired Dennis Schindler in the position of Land and Resource Manager.
-We hired Matt McLean for a 5-month membership and administrative position funded by a Provincial Student Grant Program.
-Hired Chris Benson to fill the vacant position of Programs and Event Coordinator.
- MWF and the province advanced the Hunter Education Program to improve accessibility, accommodate demand and ensure proper training is provided to new hunters each year, by offering an Online Only option in addition to traditional in-class courses. In 2019, we successfully graduated 3131 students and we are thrilled to announce that 5200 students have successfully passed the course in 2020! This is a new record high!
- We quickly adapted to a virtual way of life and launched a new way of learning through virtual workshops. To date we have offered 11 courses free of charge, covering everything from waterfowl hunting strategies, big game hunting, Sharp-tailed Grouse hunting tips, to Hunter Education reviews and ice fishing tips for beginners. We look forward to continuing with these in 2021.
- Successfully delivered our first virtual Annual General Meeting.
- Started the process of developing a pilot project with government and other user groups for a cooperative management plan for Wildlife Management Areas. We received grant funding in the amount of $106,500 from FWEF to help execute this plan.
- Partnered with St. Hubertus Game and Fish to pull off a very successful 1st Shot/Waterfowl 101 event with Team Lady Fowlers and Delta Waterfowl, followed by a Sunday Sporting Clay Fundraising Shoot. Funds raised totaled $11,000 with proceeds being split between MWF and St. Hubertus.
- Continued to advocate for a shared management approach for moose populations in closure areas on the East and West side of the province.
- Carly Deacon and Chris Heald spent a day on Lake Winnipeg pulling test nets with Fisheries Staff and Minister Blaine Pedersen to learn how mesh sizes effect harvest and discuss how to secure a sustainable fishery. We spent the afternoon shooting skeets with the Minister and discussing hunter education and firearm regulations. MWF is very fortunate to have a Minister that shares in our passions.
September – December
- Celebrated Provincial Hunting day with Hon. Blaine Pedersen, Minister of Agriculture and Resource Development, and Paul Conchatre from MLOA, hunting waterfowl at the Delta Marsh. Great discussions were had around potential changes to provincial waterfowl regulations.
- Minister Pedersen announced an unprecedented $20 million investment to create a new Fish and Wildlife Enhancement Fund (FWEF) at the Winnipeg Foundation.
- On October 14, 2020, the Manitoba Metis Federation (MMF) allocated 26 tags to Metis moose harvesters in game hunting areas currently under conservation closures – The Porcupine and Duck Mountains. The Manitoba government closed these areas to ALL hunters (licensed, Metis and First Nations) in response to survey data showing as serious decline of moose numbers to a level that if not protected, there is risk that they may not recover. The MWF took a hard stance and communicated aggressively to the government, our members, clubs and through media on the importance of managing species under one shared management plan and enforcing safe hunting practices for the protection of all Manitobans.
- The Manitoba Government passed new legislation (Bill 29) of the Wildlife Amendment Act (Safe Hunting and Shared Management) to start the shared management process, and illegalized night lighting with the exception to First Nations in areas deemed safe and by permit.
- Government heard our concerns and enforcement efforts and communication around enforcement was dramatically increased to curtail illegal hunting activities. Officers were equipped with aerial surveillance with thermal imaging, paired with on the ground enforcement and K9 support. This has all been incredibly effective for officers in locating criminals breaking laws established in Bill-29 and serving them accordingly.
- Government finalized the contract and secured the world renown wildlife conflict mediator, Alistair Bath, to lead the moose shared management process with all stakeholders.
- MWF had great discussions with the Indigenous People Alliance of Manitoba (IPAM), and mutually agreed that priority lies in the proper management of Manitoba’s natural resources and that all users of the resource must come together and share in the responsibility of protecting it for future generations.
- The MWF secured a grant to hire a professional facilitator to help the Federation with completing a 3-year strategic plan.
- COVID-19 has certainly brought outdoor activity to the forefront in Manitoba. We were excited to hear that for 2020 (data to Nov 30th), Manitoba resident angling license sales are up 15%, Canadian Resident angling license sales are up 23%, turkey license sales increased to 1630 (1075 in 2019) and Deer license sales increased to 32,384 (29,162 in 2019).
MWF’s strongest assets within policy change and advocacy is the power of our membership. The power of 14,000 people standing behind a resource, advocating for its protection and its sustainability. This voice is how we get the governments ear to make needed management, policy, and regulation changes in the province. MWF is honored to represent our membership and fight to see positive regulation changes, favorable hunting/fishing opportunities and good management plans for the protection and sustainability of fish and wildlife. We thank you again for your continued support and encourage you to renew your membership with your local club or renew as a MWF supporting member.
Wishing you all the health, happiness, and many more memorable days afield in 2021.