The province’s caribou herds are under threat, with the animals considered a species at risk. Photo: BC Forest Service.

The province’s caribou herds are under threat, with the animals considered a species at risk. Photo: BC Forest Service.

Province’s caribou herds under threat

Government taking steps to protect sensitive habitats and species at risk

To better protect environmentally sensitive habitats and species at risk, the Province of British Columbia has increased fines for unlawful use of off-road vehicles and snowmobiles.

Anyone operating an off-road vehicle in sensitive habitats, including all BC Parks and southern mountain caribou habitats, will face a $575 fine. Violation tickets may be issued under the Wildlife Act or the Park Act by police, conservation officers, natural resource officers, or park rangers.

Previous fine amounts were either $230 or $345 depending on the violation, and did not reflect the effect of non-compliance on sensitive habitats and species in British Columbia. 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 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.

The Habitat Conservation Trust Foundation (HCTF) is also working to protect the caribou population in B.C., and has been accepting applications from the public for the Caribou Habitat Restoration Fund. This fund was created through a $2 million grant from the Province of British Columbia to the HCTF to aid in caribou habitat restoration.

Since the Fund was first announced in April 2018, the HCTF has supported projects in the Kootenay-Boundary and Skeena regions designed to support caribou habitat. Approximately $1.5 million is available for projects in this funding round.

Human influence on the landscape—including forestry, mining, and road building—has altered caribou habitat. Projects pursued under the Fund will focus on restoring habitat through both functional and ecological approaches. Examples of functional restoration activities include planting trees, spreading coarse woody debris, and installing fences to disrupt linear thoroughfares that advantage predators, whereas ecological restoration activities include encouraging native plants and trees that support the return of caribou habitat to its undisturbed state.

More information about snowmobiling in B.C. is available online at www.snowmobile.gov.bc.ca.



editorial@accjournal.ca

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