Anyone caught driving off-road vehicles and snowmobiles in habitats deemed sensitive by the government will face hefty increased fines.
The Province said the move will better protect environmentally sensitive habitats and species at risk.
“Effective immediately, anyone operating an off-road vehicle in sensitive habitats, including all BC Parks and southern mountain caribou habitats, will face a $575 fine,” a government news release stated Tuesday.
Violation tickets may be issued under the Wildlife Act or the Park Act by police, conservation officers, natural resource officers or park rangers.
The new fine amount in some cases more than doubles the previous fine amounts of either $230 or $345 depending on the violation. That amount did not reflect the effect of non-compliance to sensitive habitats and species in British Columbia, the government said.
Court convictions for snowmobiling in southern mountain caribou habitats also may result in a fine up to $200,000 and six months imprisonment.
Caribou are considered a species at risk, and protecting caribou habitat ranges is crucial to the survival of the species. Controlled and limited access to sensitive habitats by off-road vehicles, such as snowmobiles, is the most effective way to protect these areas and wildlife from harmful recreation activities.
The Province said it has committed to a new long-term, comprehensive, science-based approach to protect and preserve caribou populations: the Provincial Caribou Recovery Program. The Province has put aside $27 million over three years to establish this program.
An important component of the caribou recovery program aims to reduce the effect of winter backcountry recreation (e.g., recreational snowmobiling), which has the potential to damage caribou habitat, increase access by predators and displace mountain caribou from their preferred early and late winter habitat, stated the release.