The B.C. government says restrictions have been placed on snowmobiling in South Peace areas that contain caribou habitat.

Around 454,000 hectares of Crown land are closed to snowmobiles in 13 of 21 identified riding areas, said the Ministry of Forests, Lands, Natural Resource Operations and Rural Development on Tuesday.

Riding opportunities remain in 71 per cent of the areas identified as being important to snowmobilers, the ministry continued.

“Although winter motorized recreation is not the primary threat to caribou recovery, operating vehicles such as snowmobiles in alpine and sub-alpine caribou habitat can disturb and displace the animals, put unnecessary stress on them and make them more vulnerable to predators such as wolves and cougars,” said the ministry’s information bulletin.

The ministry says the goal is to mitigate impacts on caribou recovery while continuing winter recreation in areas outside key caribou habitat.

The ministry is providing $150,000 through its B.C. Caribou Recovery Program to help local snowmobile clubs plan enhancement projects outside of the areas being managed to protect caribou habitat.

Projects could include new access, maintenance of existing trails and other projects identified by the clubs.

Recovery program staff have worked with Saulteau First Nations, West Moberly First Nations and the federal government to support caribou recovery in the region. The ministry also spoke with local governments, including Fort St. John, Dawson Creek, Chetwynd, Tumbler Ridge, and the B.C. Snowmobile Federation.

A public engagement process ran from May 19th through July 14th.

A map showing areas affected by motorized vehicle closures is available online.