Public Encouraged To Help Protect Local Habitats
May 16, 2008
VICTORIA - Off-road vehicle users and ATV riders are being encouraged to help protect critical wildlife habitat by staying out of sensitive ecosystems such as wetlands, streams, grasslands and alpine areas, or risk enforcement actions.
"We're asking everyone to do their part to protect British Columbia's natural terrain," said Forests and Range Minister Rich Coleman. "Most people do use off-road vehicles responsibly and we encourage others to follow their example and stay out of sensitive ecosystems."
"British Columbia has a greater diversity of plants and animals than any other province in Canada," said Environment Minister Barry Penner. "This incredible diversity depends on factors such as the quality of habitat, the health of the soil and the level of human disturbance. Recreating responsibly means having a good time, and protecting the environment at the same time."
This May long weekend, provincial enforcement officers will be conducting random inspections at known off-roading sites. The goal of these inspections is to encourage responsible recreation and to educate the public about how their activities may be affected by recent legislative changes.
In 2007, amendments to the Forest and Range Practices Act made it illegal for individuals to cause environmental damage on Crown land. Under the law, individuals who cause adverse damage to an ecosystem, such as can occur with motorized vehicle use in sensitive sites, may be subject to enforcement actions ranging from warnings and violation tickets that carry a $575 fine. More serious cases of damage could lead to penalties of up to $100,000 and a year in jail.
In the Okanagan-Shuswap, there are a growing number of damaged sites, with grasslands near Oliver and wetlands bordering Garnet Lake of particular concern. These sites are especially vulnerable this year due to the delayed spring snow melt that has made soils more susceptible to erosion and compaction.
Irresponsible off-road vehicle use in alpine, grassland or wetland areas can disturb soil and destroy plants, risk watershed and water source quality, threaten or kill birds and animals, and introduce invasive plants that displaces native vegetation that wildlife relies on. The public is encouraged to help protect essential habitat by operating off-highway vehicles and ATVs only on managed and designated trails and roads, and never building new trails.
The Province reminds the public that everyone has a stake in protecting forest and range lands. The public is asked to report suspicious activities and environmental damage to authorities, including a local forest district office, the Report All Poachers and Polluters Program at 1 877 952-7277, or to CrimeStoppers at 1 800 222-8477.
While travelling on a Forest Service Road, operators of ATVs are required to hold a valid driver's licence, carry a minimum of $200,000 third-party liability insurance and wear safety helmets.
Note to media: For photos illustrating damage to ecosystems caused by off-road vehicle use, please visit [www.for.gov.bc.ca/pab/media].
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