After working in logging and construction for many years, Steve Ackles wanted something different.
He underwent a career assessment, which suggested a conservation officer might be a job better suited for him.
In his 40s, he went back to university to train for this new role, becoming a conservation officer in 2005. He wore the badge proudly and was the epitome of a conservation officer – passionate about protecting the environment, fish and wildlife, with an unmatched work ethic.
“He grew up with a passion for the outdoors, which I think led to him ultimately becoming a conservation officer,” said his son, Kyle Ackles, who was inspired to follow his father’s footsteps and is an inspector overseeing the COS General Investigations Section. “He went into his career later in life after working a lot of very hard manual labour jobs. It gave him a bigger appreciation for the job itself. He would often say, ‘I can’t believe I get paid to do this.’”
Sgt. Steve Ackles passed away after a lengthy illness in March 2021 but left an indelible mark on the Conservation Officer Service. His legacy lives on with his colleagues around the province, who remember Steve as an enthusiastic officer, valued mentor, patient supervisor, COS Society president and more.
Steve Ackles is the 28th recipient of the Conservation Officer of the Year award. Awarded posthumously, Kyle Ackles accepted the award in Victoria on his behalf. The 2020 award presentation was delayed due to pandemic restrictions.
Since 1992, the Conservation Officer of the Year designation has been awarded annually to conservation officers who go above and beyond the call of duty and exemplify the values of the Conservation Officer Service: integrity, public service and protection of the environment.
“Steve exemplified everything a conservation officer aspires to be and is deeply deserving of this recognition,” said George Heyman, Minister of Environment and Climate Change Strategy. “Being a conservation officer can be challenging at times, but their work is vital to communities across our province and supports the protection of our natural environment and a diversity of species. Steve had a positive impact on his community and made a difference in the lives of his colleagues. I want to thank his son Kyle, and all conservation officers, for the important work they do every day.”
Steve Ackles' career took him to various postings throughout B.C., including Nanaimo and Port Alberni on Vancouver Island, close to where he raised his family in Parksville.
No matter how busy he was, Steve always made time to help others. He often shared his knowledge with students interested in a similar career path, spending countless hours mentoring at Vancouver Island University.
“Steve Ackles was the epitome of a conservation officer – passionate about protecting the environment, fish and wildlife, and dedicated to all aspects of the role,” said Cam Schley, acting chief conservation officer, B.C. Conservation Officer Service. “A true leader, he was admired by supervisors and colleagues across our agency, known for his caring, respect, hard work and resiliency. He was always willing to mentor and train new staff and was well-known in his community as a conservation officer. Steve provided endless support for his officers and always put their best interests first. Steve was not only a valued officer but was a true friend to many who worked with him.”
John Morgan, a long-time professor at Vancouver Island University, remembers Steve as his student in the Resource Management Officer Technology (RMOT) diploma program.
“Steve worked hard to achieve his dream of becoming a conservation officer. He was a true class leader, supportive of his classmates,” Morgan said. “After becoming a conservation officer, he gave back in several ways, including through guest lectures and mentoring students in our practicum course. The world has lost not only a great conservation officer but a great person.”
Morgan also taught Steve’s son Kyle, who “carries himself with the same professionalism and passion for natural resource protection that his father did.”
The Ackles family recently created an RMOT student award in Steve’s name through the VIU foundation.
A Predator Attack Team specialist and valued member of his community, Steve made a difference in the lives of his colleagues, friends and family. Known for both his humour and sometimes blunt speaking style, Steve could just as easily swap field stories with fellow officers or speak passionately to media about human actions and bear conflicts.
His last position was in Prince George, overseeing the area as a sergeant in the Omineca region.
To learn more about the BC Conservation Officer Service, visit: https://tinyurl.com/ycktm4nr