New highway signs, a website and a toll-free hotline for the public to report poachers and polluters were approved by Environment Minister Barry Penner, who is attending the 50th Annual Meeting of the BC Wildlife Federation (BCWF) today in Penticton.
"The Conservation Officer Service is seeking the public’s help in catching people who break our environmental laws," said Penner. "The Report All Poachers and Polluters (RAPP) signs and free hotline give the public an opportunity to help protect our environment – anonymously and without risk of confronting the offender."
The public can report violators 24 hours a day, seven days a week by visiting www.rapp.bc.ca  or by calling 1-877-952-RAPP (7277). The new signs, which are scheduled to be installed starting in June, will help get the message out to the public. They will also be easy to use for cell phone users by dialing #RAPP.
"We’re hiring more conservation officers this year, but the public and local communities can also help us stop environmental violations," said Penner. "Polluters are dangerous to our environment, our health and the economy. The water we drink, the air we breathe and the foods we eat all come from the environment and we need the public’s eyes, ears and good judgment to report known or suspected violators."
Under the B.C. Environmental Management Act, polluters can face a maximum $1-million fine and six months in jail. Under the B.C. Wildlife Act, a poacher can face a maximum $100,000 fine and one year in jail for a first offence. Illegally taking fish or damaging fish habitat has a maximum penalty of $1 million under the Canada Fisheries Act.
The new RAPP phone number replaces the older conservation officer toll-free number. Mark Hayden, the Province’s chief conservation officer, hopes that the simple slogan and online reporting form will make it easier for the public to report violations of environmental regulations.
"This is one more step towards improving the enforcement and compliance of our environmental laws to make British Columbia a world leader in environmental management and sustainable communities," said Penner.
The hotline is a partnership with the BC Wildlife Federation and the hunting and angling community. The BCWF is offering rewards of up to $2,000 for information leading to charges being laid against suspected violators through the RAPP program.
Tony Toth, executive director of the BCWF, said it is not reasonable to expect provincial environmental staff to have the capacity to cover the entire province all day, every day. "I urge the public to assist us in chasing down violators and bringing them to justice. No one has the right to abuse a resource that belongs to all of us," Toth said.
The Conservation Officer Service has officers stationed in 44communities throughout the province. The RAPP hotline is part of a modernization of the province’s environmental compliance program that also includes hiring 19 new conservation officers this year.
To download a digital version of the new RAPP sign, visit:www.env.gov.bc.ca/pac/images/Infrastructure_Sign_RAPP.pdf