While this week's snow is discouraging, warmer days are not that far ahead.

And when they do arrive, there's an overwhelming desire by many to head to wilderness areas for some leisurely activities.

Unfortunately. it just isn't that simple during the COVID-19 crisis

A fire ban came in effect today for provincial parks and protected areas, and recreational use of off-highway vehicles (OHV) has been banned from Crown land in forest protection areas.

Fines have been doubled to $600 from $300 for non-compliance with a fire ban, and $1,200 from $600 for non-compliance with an OHV restriction.

Indigenous people can continue to use OHVs on public land for traditional purposes. Use of OHVs is also permitted on private lands, for industrial use, and by emergency responders.

Currently, there are no fire bans in place for the Town of Cochrane or Rocky View County, although protected areas begin just to the west of here.

Alberta Agriculture and Forestry minister Devin Dreeshen says the measures are only temporary so as not to compound the challenges already being faced by the COVID-19 pandemic.

In addition, the government announced the hiring of 200 firefighters for the current wildfire season, and will be providing up to $20 million for community Fire Smart initiatives.

Fire Smart is a vegetation control program utilized by both communities and industry.

The funding is for community initiatives. Recipients are expected to use the funds this year.

In this area, Bragg Creek has a Fire Smart committee and the Summer Village of Waiparous is a Fire Smart community.