Terry Gardner had goosebumps as he talked about the bigger picture of what new wildlife regulations will mean to people living with a disability.
“The bigger picture is equality for all in an equal world, in an equal country and an equal province,” Gardner said Friday. “Every little piece of the puzzle makes a difference. It’s a step forward. It’s a step to the future.”
Gardner, who is blind and a member of the provincial Coalition of Persons with Disabilities, was one of the keynote speakers at a news conference Friday in Corner Brook where Fisheries and Land Resources Minister Gerry Byrne announced major changes to the provincial Wildlife Act and regulations.
Changes being made include lowering the minimum hunting age, updating the program for hunters and anglers with a disability, and earlier application dates for the provincial big game draw.
Gardner has been an advocate for bringing about changes that will make life better for those with a disability, so when he sees the government take the steps it did with Friday’s announcements he feels a sense of hope for the future.
“Just because they thought about that is awesome because usually more often than not we’re not thought about,” he said.
All he ever asked for is an opportunity to access and enjoy things like other Newfoundlanders when it comes to the great outdoors, so he’s thankful that the government has listened to the concerns of people with disabilities.
“There’s so many walls out there to fight against, so if somebody is going to open up a door for me I’m going to jump in and take advantage of it,” Gardner said.
• The minimum age requirement to shoot small game, coyotes and other furbearers has been lowered from 16 to 12 years of age.
• The minimum age requirement to shoot big game has been lowered from 18 to 16 years of age.
• The new age requirements take effect immediately, and youth hunters are only permitted to use a firearm under supervision of a qualified adult.
Hunters with a disability
• Effective immediately, a designated hunter can remain within 800 metres or line of sight, whichever is greater, of the person with a disability.
• A restructuring of the Problem Moose Policy for the 2018-19 season will give priority access to big game to persons with disabilities not able to complete the Firearm Safety-Hunter Education Program.
• Development of a new policy to provide persons with disabilities priority access to moose put down by conservation officers for humane or public safety reasons.
Earlier big game draw application dates
• Earlier big game draw application dates will also be in effect for the 2018-19 big game season to provide hunters and trappers with greater lead time to adequately plan for hunting and trapping activities.
•Dec. 10, 2017 — Deadline for new applicants wishing to participate in the 2018-19 big game draw process (including youth hunters and hunters with a disability) to have completed the required Firearms Safety/Hunter Education Training Course.
• Feb. 19, 2018 — Big game applications mailout
• March 30, 2018 — Application submission deadline
• May 1, 2018 — Big game draw result notifications released