Japanese knotweed plants are pretty, like broom, but are just as relentlessly invasive. (Submited)

TNRD looks to expand invasive plant program to municipalities

The TNRD’s 11 municipalities are currently not part of the invasive plant program

A presentation was given to council about from the Thompson-Nicola Regional District’s Environmental Health Services Department as the regional district looks at adding member municipalities to its invasive plant program.

The proposal would see the TNRD’s 11 municipalities buy into the program, through a tax model based on population, which would assist the private property owners within those municipal boundaries access funds and information in fighting noxious weeds.

“Weeds don’t follow any jurisdictional boundaries,” Jamie Vieira, manager of environmental services for the TNRD said to council. “Our current invasive plant control service, the tax-funded service, ends at municipal boundaries, but, unfortunately, the weeds don’t listen to that and they travel over municipal boundaries into municipalities.”

Some examples of invasive plants in the TNRD include, Japanese knotweed, hoary alyssum, common tansy, burdock, diffuse knapweed and yellow flag iris. A report from 2009 estimated the economic impacts from invasive plants for B.C. in 2020 could be upwards of $140 million.

Coleen Hougen, invasive plant management coodinator for the TNRD, spoke to council and provided some information about some of the noxious weeds in the area. Invasive plants in the region, she said, can have impacts on the economy, real estate, tourism, and the health of humans and livestock.

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Japanese knotweed is in Clearwater, and can have large impacts on infrastructure. It can grow through foundation and asphalt, and their roots are extremely strong and potent. Pulling the plants out of the ground might seem like the good thing to do, but just 0.7 grams of plant tissue left in the soil can bring up new plants.

Hougen provided an example where a local business had an issue with their septic and upon further investigation had the knapweed growing throughout the system.

“The landowner, they had to take on that burden to manage the plant, and in their case, the septic system,” she said. “I’m sure at that point they would’ve been like, “Some kind of help would be appreciated,” but we weren’t there to correct it.”

Another example is common tansy, which is toxic to livestock. While livestock will not eat the plant while in pasture, the plant can get mixed up in hay, rendering the hay useless and a loss of revenue for the landowner, or even a sick herd of cattle. The seeds of common tansy can remain viable for up to 25 years, so stopping the spread is a major concern.

Some plants can impact human health. Giant hogweed, while not currently in the North Thmpson area, can lead to painful blisters or burns if the plant comes into contact with the skin. However, there are some look-alikes, such as wild parsnip and cow parsnip, with the latter most often mistaken for giant hogweed.

The leaves and stems of cow parsnip contain a sap that is toxic to the skin and cause a hypersensitivity to sunlight, whoch can lead to rashes and burns.

Other societal effects of invasive weeds, are an impact on tourism and recreation, affecting the natural plant-life and scenery, or causing rashes or burns on those visiting.

Hougen recalled a camping trip her family took to the Okanagan. The area was filled with diffuse knapweed, giving her kids rashes just by playing around the camp sites. The following year, she thought twice about going back.

Even though these issues can affect anyone in the region, private property owners within TNRD municiaplities, like Clearwater, aren’t eligible for the funding and assistance available as they aren’t part of the program — the reason for the presentation to council.

Vieira said the TNRD has had an increase of calls from those within TNRD member municipalities looking for guidance or assistance in handling invasive plants on their property. While they can provide advice over the phone, that’s where it ends.

To join the program, each municipality, would need to buy in, which is based on population. For Clearwater, the starting contribution is $10,000, with a maximum amount of 2.5 per cent of the DOC’s budget. The money is put into a pot that serves all member areas, both rural and municipal, based on need, not on contribution.

The rural areas would provide funding for the lion’s share of the program, said Vieira. If all 11 member municipalities joined, for example, the ten electoral areas would fund 75 per cent of the total tax requisition.

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The TNRD Invasive Plant Program provides funding for land owner assistance, such as financial rebates for managing weeds on their property, equipment loans and land consultations, education and outreach, as well as multi-party collaboration in the form of a committee, comprised of 11 members, including government groups, First Nations, agriculture and conservation. More information about the program and the proposed contributions can be found here.

“The majority of the funding and the work we do is assisting private land owners,” said Vieira. “That’s number one.”

Considering the severity of the issue, Councillor Shelley Sim questioned why there isn’t more being done by the provincial government. Vieira responded with funding numbers the TNRD receives from the provincial government.

The Ministry of Transportation, he said, provides the TNRD with about $200,000 per year in funding to take care of the area along the highways throughout the region. Likewise, the Minsitry of Forests, Lands, Natural Resources Operations and Rural Development spent about $400,000 treating invasive plants.

“Just on landowner assistance, we’re spending $400,000,” said Vieira. “There’s a lot more provincial land out there and we’re spending just as much, or more money…That’s something the TNRD board has always been, and continues to be, very active in lobbying the provincial government to do more.”

If the DOC decides to join the program, taxation and program benefits wouldn’t begin until 2022.


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