Off-road vehicle use can cause environment damage

Outdoor enthusiasts who enjoy exploring B.C.’s backcountry need to do it responsibly

Outdoor enthusiasts who enjoy exploring this province’s spectacular backcountry need to do it responsibly and be aware of their legal obligations, or else they may face hefty fines and possible jail time.

Under the Forest and Range Practices Act, it is illegal to cause environmental damage on Crown land.

Irresponsible off-road vehicle use can disturb soil, destroy plants, risk watershed and water source quality, threaten birds and animals, and introduce invasive plants that may displace native vegetation that wildlife relies on.

Drivers of off-road vehicles are encouraged to help protect wildlife habitat by staying out of sensitive ecosystems such as wetlands, streams, grasslands, shorelines and alpine areas.

While travelling on a forest service road, an operator of an all-terrain vehicle is required to hold a valid driver’s licence, carry a minimum of $200,000 third-party liability insurance and wear a safety helmet.

Anyone who rides irresponsibly and causes environmental damage can face stiff penalties. Individuals who harm an ecosystem (including damage caused by off-road vehicles such as motorbikes or all-terrain vehicles) may be subject to enforcement actions ranging from a warning to a violation ticket that carries a $575 fine. More serious cases could result in a penalty of up to $100,000 and/or up to a year in jail.

Natural resource officers from the ministry’s Compliance and Enforcement Branch regularly patrol regions within the province. The goal of these inspections is to educate the public and promote safe and responsible recreational use of these areas.

The ministry takes non-compliance very seriously and natural resource officers will be on the lookout for individuals or groups that are not adhering to the rules.

Every British Columbian has a stake in protecting the province’s natural resources:

* Only operate off-road vehicles on managed and designated trails or roads. Do not build or establish new trails.

* Contact or join a local recreational club to learn more about responsible riding practices and authorized riding areas.

* Obey all posted signs.

* If you are unsure about the environmental sensitivity of a particular area, please stay out of that area.

* Learn about your legal obligations under provincial legislation, including:

* Forest and Range Practices Act: http://www.bclaws.ca/Recon/document/ID/freeside/00_02069_01

* Forest Service Road Use regulation: https://www.for.gov.bc.ca/tasb/legsregs/archive/fpc/fpcaregs/fsroadus/f srur.htm

* Motor Vehicle Act: http://www.bclaws.ca/Recon/document/ID/freeside/96318_05

Anyone who witnesses suspicious activity or discovers environmental damage can submit a report by calling the Natural Resource Violation hotline at 1 844 NRO-TIPS (1 844 676-8477). You can also submit a report online at: www.for.gov.bc.ca/hen/