I want to thank you all for the opportunity to speak today. I'm really excited to be here to speak about this topic of hunting.
I'll tell you a little bit about myself. I'm a hunter, a trapper. I've dedicated my life to biology and conservation of living things and wild places. It defines who I am. It defines my family. It's really important to me and my community. I can trace my culture back at least seven generations to Norway where we came from originally.
I'm really lucky to be the managing director of the Manitoba Wildlife Federation. It's a tremendous group. Hunters, anglers, and trappers are our members. We have 14,000 of them. We're organized in a hundred clubs across Manitoba. We have an amazing network of people who are really committed to conservation. They have done amazing things. In our province alone, we have conserved over 30,000 acres of habitat for wildlife: game species, non-game species, endangered species. Our clubs and members are really passionate and committed to making sure that wild places are here forever.
These people give their time and money on a level that is breathtaking. These are everyday citizens, everyday Canadians. They come from all walks of life and they do incredible stuff at the local level.
We always talk about environmentalism, and I learned in university, and I've learned I guess in life, that you want to think globally and act locally. In that regard, I think our federation members are incredible examples of that. They do endless work in their communities. There are too many fish habitat restoration projects to count. They do it on their own. They raise the money locally. They put in their own money. They're out there with their kids, their wives, their families, building fish-spawning structures, for example. They love doing it. They love putting back. Bird nesting boxes.... There are a variety of habitat treatment projects—trying to improve habitat out there for wildlife.
Right now in Manitoba we have a moose crisis. We have moose crashing in our province currently. Our members are setting up consultations with aboriginal hunters. They're trying to build relationships and alliances to be able to bring the moose back. They're driving hundreds of miles to attend consultation meetings and meetings that are coordinating hunters to try to bring back the moose. They do it simply by being asked. They go. It's not a question if they're going to go; they're going to go for the moose. They care that much.
The comments before me and coming after me, I think will well establish the money, the economic importance and the kinds of contributions that hunters have made as conservationists.
I want to talk very briefly about this notion of hunters as environmentalists. In our view, we do a lot of work at the Manitoba Wildlife Federation to recruit new hunters and fishers. We've always believed that hunters and anglers are the very important people who are going to work to make sure the animals and fish are here forever, and the habitat that they rely on. We've always felt that. A recent study out of Cornell has shown that hunters are four times more likely than an average citizen to participate in conservation work to make sure we have sustainable resources forever.
I started a youth hunting program here in Manitoba that spread across Canada. I did it as an a Delta Waterfowl employee. It's one of my favourite things that I've ever worked on. The most important part of it for me is the first night before the hunt. We talk to the kids before they go out and say, “Listen, you're going to hunt in the morning. You're going to go out and hunt ducks. It's going to be a great experience. We're going to get our own meat. We're going to learn how to cook it and prepare it and get connected to our food. When you do that, you're responsible for them forever. Forever they're entrusted to your care, so you have to make sure you always put back more than you take.”
That is our approach and our vision to conservation. Hunters can really drive energy as environmentalists because they're so connected to the resource. They are a big opportunity for us to engage them as environmentalists. Think of them more in that light.
I feel like the old rules don't apply anymore. I mean, who's an environmentalist? When you say environmentalist and you talk to a Canadian, it may conjure up all kinds of images. You may think of Greenpeace trying to stop whalers or something like that.
Maybe that's the old view. I often ask people those questions. I'm very curious about that. I think the old rules don't apply anymore. I think now we see this massive movement of urban people coming back to hunting. We have recruitment programs, as I said, trying to get people reconnected to the land and reconnected to where their food comes from. We can't meet the demand.
Hunters as a constituency and as a community—it's a rainbow now. We have more women coming to it than you might imagine or guess. We can't meet the demand for the number of ladies who want to try this now. One of the fastest-growing areas for interest in hunting, fishing, and trapping for us, especially hunting, is with new Canadians. When you line people up against the wall and say, “Those are hunters”, they may not look like it, in your mind's eye.
As well, they think they're environmentalists. It would be news to them that they're not. They wear that on their sleeves. They're really committed to doing that work. I often meet people who will say, “How can you hunt and care about the environment? You're actually killing the animals that you say you care about.” But we don't do conservation to have more wildlife to hunt; because we hunt we have to do conservation. We're obligated to do that. We feel like it's our responsibility.
Now with our youth programming, and with the new hunters, we tell them that the thinking we have, to put back more than we take, extends beyond hunting. We all take resources: our homes, our cars. We all need resources to live. Canada is very much a resource-based economy. We take from the land. If we can all apply that same environmental thinking to everything we do as Canadians every day, we'll put back more than we take—all the time. If we can apply that hunters mindset to everything we do in Canada when we're talking about taking resources, taking from the land, we'll be a lot better off environmentally and a lot more connected to protecting the environment.
The last thing I'll say is that I recognize—I just saw it through the media—that there's maybe a bit of controversy around thinking of hunters as environmentalists and considering them in the environment committee. I can understand that. I would encourage all the people involved here today, regardless of what party you're involved in, to think of people like me, my family, and my wife as an opportunity. Think of us as an opportunity. Pull us in deeper. Engage us. Give us a challenge. Hunters love a challenge. There's no challenge we won't try to tackle if it benefits the environment, if it benefits the animals, if it benefits the habitat they rely on. Think of us as environmentalists. Pull us in deeper and see us as the opportunity that we feel we are.
With that, I'll just thank you again for the opportunity to be here today. We really appreciate that.