The provincial government has proclaimed June 9 to15 Invasive Species Week in B.C. in a bid to to help raise awareness of the economic and environmental damage invasive plants and animals can cause if allowed to spread in the province.
And, in a call in Kelowna Friday to all British Columbians to be on the lookout for, and to report, invasive species, Forest, Lands and Natural Resources Minister Steve Thomson and the chairman of the Invasive Species Council of British Columbia, Barry Gibbs, said the public can, and already does, do its part.
“They are our eyes on the ground,” said Thomson, MLA for Kelowna-Mission.
He said while Victoria has given the council $180,000 this year to help eradicate invasive species in different parts of the province, another $1.6 million has gone to 29 regional districts, municipalities and local groups to continue the fight as well.
The government works closely with the council, regional districts, municipalities and community-based to help stop the spread of harmful plants and animals, added Thomson.
The funding is in addition to $809,000 already earmarked by Thomson’s ministry for invasive plant control and management in 2014-15.
Gibbs encouraged the public to get directly involved in halting the introduction and spread of invasive plants by downloading the free “Report-a-Weed” app for iPhones or Android smartphones.
The easy-to-use interface allows users to submit reports on invasive plant sightings anywhere in B.C., upload photos of plants they find, and view previously logged sightings: http://www.reportaweedbc.ca/
In addition to plants, the council also wants to stop the introduction of destructive quagga and zebra mussels into the lake in B.C. The mussels can destroy water intakes and damage beaches.
WHile not yet in B.C., there was a close call recently when alert border guards at Osoyoos spotted a boat being transported her from Washington that has zebra mussels on it.
Since 2012, the B.C. government has provided the Invasive Species Council of B.C. with $2.1 million to help prevent aquatic invasive species from entering B.C. and to support public awareness campaigns and preventative measures, such as the “Clean, Drain, Dry” program
for recreational boaters aimed at stopping the introduction of the mussels and the spread of other invasive water-borne plants.
On Friday, Gibbs showed off one of the new signs the council has designed encouraging boaters to be vigilant and clean, drain and dry their boats after use.
The same strategy is advised for all-terrain vehicles using the back country and even camping equipment.
In the Interior, Thomson and Gibbs said knapweed is one of the biggest problems because it chokes out natural grass and that adversley affects grazing cattle.
In 2012, the provincial government amended the controlled alien species regulation to further restrict non-native species. For example, invasive zebra or quagga mussels (alive or dead) are not
allowed to remain on boats or related equipment. Failure to clean mussels off boats or equipment could result in a fine of up to $100,000.
The Invasive Plant program identifies sites where new invasive plant species have been found and responds rapidly to contain and eradicate them before they become established and start spreading.
Invasive species of concern in B.C. include European fire ants, bullfrogs, eastern grey squirrels, garlic mustard, yellow perch, flowering rush, nutria, knotweed, New Zealand mud snail and marsh plume thistle.
Other targeted invasive plant species include orange and yellow (non-native) hawkweeds, knapweed, giant hogweed, blueweed, common tansy, tansy ragwort, hoary alyssum, field scabious, leafy spurge, purple loosestrife, yellow flag iris, Himalayan balsam and Scotch broom.