Although the $275 penalty dished out by the Queensland Parks and Wildlife Service (QPWS) is something of a light sentence, given the maximum penalty for damaging a state forest is $2740 and the top end for prohibited acts in a state forest is $411,000 or two years’ imprisonment or both
QPWS installed covert cameras at seven locations late last year within Danbulla State Forest near Lake Tinaroo on the Atherton Tablelands.
The captured footage has been described by QPWS ranger Roger James as people “conducting a lot of poor and dangerous behaviour”.
Cutting locks on gates and chopping down trees to build new dirt trails into the forest topped the list of indiscretions.
The registered owner of every vehicle captured by the cameras will now be receiving a fine in the mail.
“Some of these people have been using the state forest tracks as their personal racetracks and often drive recklessly and cause damage by doing donuts or digging mud holes when they get bogged,” James said.
“What is clear, is that all the drivers have ignored locked gates, vehicle bollards and signage advising them not to enter.”
James said it was illegal to access some areas of the state forest for safety reasons
“We want people to read the signs and avoid the fines,” he said.
“Illegal access in the state forest is associated with other offences including camping without permits, illegal littering and lighting unlawful fires, which has impacted on vegetation in the past.”
James said the hidden cameras not only took photos of vehicle number plates, they also captured illegal driving behaviour.
“We have multiple photographs of people traveling unrestrained in the back of utes and four-wheel-drives, which when combined with speed and careless driving, is a fatality waiting to happen,’ he said.
“Rangers are sick of this dangerous behaviour, and there are plenty of other places in our region where people can legally enjoy four-wheel-driving and camping.”
He said QPWS was working with Hancocks Queensland Plantations to maintain the forest tracks and the gates and bollards to prevent illegal access.
In a state forest, a person must not drive or ride a vehicle or recreational craft at speed or in a way that causes damage to the area.
Prohibited acts in a state forest include destroying a forest product (cutting down trees), constructing a new road or carrying out excavation works.
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