B.C. ups fines for off-road vehicles and snowmobiles in sensitive habitats

Anyone operating the vehicles in those areas will face a $575 fine, effectively immediately. Previously, the fines were either $230 or $345, depending on the violation.

Program aims to reduce effects of winter backcountry recreation, including snowmobiling on caribou habitat

The B.C. government says court convictions for snowmobiling in southern mountain caribou habitats may result in a fine up to $200,000 and six months in jail. (Radio-Canada)

Fines are going up for anyone who uses off-road vehicles and snowmobiles in environmentally sensitive areas of British Columbia.

Anyone operating the vehicles in those areas will face a $575 fine, effectively immediately.

Previously, the fines were either $230 or $345, depending on the violation.

As well, the provincial government says court convictions for snowmobiling in southern mountain caribou habitats may result in a fine up to $200,000 and six months in jail.

Chris Doyle with B.C.'s Conservation Officer Service says snowmobiliers can have an impact in displacing caribou as well as laying tracks that predators can easily access into caribou habitat.

"We're hoping [the fines] will be an adequate deterrent to keep those that are tempted to either stray into closed areas or not plan ahead ... and [those who] deliberately enter those closed areas to access different terrain or powder," Doyle said. 

When snowmobiliers enter sensitive caribou habitat, they can displace herds as well as lay tracks that make it easy for predators to access the animals. (British Columbia Forest Service/The Canadian Press)

Donegal Wilson, the executive director of the British Columbia Snowmobile Federation, says her group is supportive of the fine increase.

"Basically, we agree that we need to gain compliance from a few within our user groups who choose not to respect boundaries," Wilson said. 

She said she believed most of the general snowmobiler population will not be impacted by the fines because most of them snowmobile responsibly. 

She also reiterated that snowmobiliers who inadvertently end up in sensitive terrain need to take responsibility for planning ahead.

"You can go on the website and search Google for snowmobile closures and all the maps are there, downloadable to your phone or your GPS.," she said.

The government says it is spending $27 million over three years on a program to help the recovery of caribou, which are considered a species at risk.

With files from the Canadian Press, Radio West and Daybreak South