Pulling Together to combat Invasive Plants in the Cariboo

More than 45 enthusiastic participants joined the Cariboo Chilcotin Coast Invasive Plant Committee (CCCIPC) on July 24th for an engaging field tour and Annual General Meeting (AGM) to address the threat of invasive plants in the south Cariboo.

The field tour brought together local gardeners, ranchers, all levels of government (federal, provincial and local), First Nations, stakeholders, and interested volunteers. Discussion topics ranged from invasive plant management and disposal strategies to identification and reporting methods, all with the hopes of protecting local ecosystems, economies, and human health and safety from invasive species such as orange hawkweed (Hieracium aurantiacum) and knapweed (Centaurea spp).  New invasive plants to the Cariboo-Chilcotin were also seen, including baby’s breath (Gypsophila paniculata), hoary alyssum (Berteroa incana) and sulphur cinquefoil (Potentilla recta).

“B.C. is the hotbed of hawkweeds, and I’m discouraged to see so much of it here in the Cariboo, ” said guest speaker Dr. Linda Wilson, Invasive Plant Management Program Manager with Ministry of Agriculture and Lands. “This plant devil is so wide spread in North America because it’s been planted in places like rock gardens and cemeteries.”

About 75 per cent of today's invasive plants were intentionally introduced and cost Canadians millions of dollars each year in lost productivity and increased management costs.

One infestation of orange hawkweed near Mount Timothy is spreading out of control, partly due to roadside mowing. “If it’s mowed, this plant is just going to get irritated and will probably triple its spread,” said Wilson, adding that, “you can’t hand pull a hawkweed” due to fragments left in the soil that will result in new growth nearby.

Orange hawkweed is a prolific seed producer. Originally from Europe, it is currently considered to be one of the fastest spreading invasive species in North America. All you need is one plant to start a large infestation, remarked Wilson. An experiment in greenhouse conditions saw one seed germinate at the end of April and by mid-August had grown 2 feet high with root systems a metre and a half long.

The field tour also took participants to Walker Valley near 108 Mile Ranch to learn about current efforts of the Greenbelt Commission to contain diffuse and spotted knapweed. Graham Allison and Herb Carter of the Greenbelt Commission led the group to a recreational area with flag ribbon to tag knapweed plants for upcoming herbicide treatment.

So far, containing knapweed in the heavily used area has been successful due to active volunteers and support of the Cariboo Regional District, said Carter. “For some of the volunteers it’s a passion, and for others it’s a hobby.” Volunteers include local gardeners, bird watchers, and those who enjoy regular walks on valley trails. “We get a lot of people that walk through here every day and don’t see knapweed,” remarked Allison. The pink flag ribbon gets people asking questions and even getting involved.

Active volunteer and resident of the 108 Mile Ranch, Wendy Hamblin, said the main thing she has done to contribute is talk to people. “I always have a pocket full of pamphlets on knapweed.” Many people seeing Hamblin with her ribbon and digging up knapweed along Walker Valley have stopped to inquire, having no idea that it thrives there or that it’s a concern. “I don’t think I’ve met anyone, that after talking with them about it, aren’t willing to help out.” Letting people know they have knapweed in their backyards has also been a task Hamblin has taken upon herself.

“Wendy has filled my truck several times with knapweed,” said Carter, adding that, “it really helps to have one person take a lead.”

The Greenbelt Commission is a sub-regional unit of the Cariboo Regional District that manages 1500 acres in Walker Valley, and has a land management strategy in the works that will look at grazing of local livestock and monitoring for invasive plants.

The key to progress, said Mike Simpson, coordinator for CCCIPC, is being able to get people engaged so they take ownership of the problem on their own property, and to understand the implications of infestations on the environment and the economic costs to land-based industries such as ranching, agriculture, forestry, mining and others.

Local ranchers expressed concerns that if government doesn’t manage roadside invasions, there is no hope of containing infestations on private land as well. Participants agreed that additional government funding and support is needed to address invasive plants, and that multiple invasive plant species can be targeted together with roadside maintenance.

The CCCIPC has developed a regional strategic plan that lists 21 invasive plants in the region that need management, in which orange hawkweed and diffuse and spotted knapweeds are rated a fairly high priority to contain. Efforts to stop their spread are underway while infestations are small enough to manage with herbicidal treatments.

The CCCIPC is a multi-stakeholder, non-profit society dedicated to minimizing the spread and impacts of invasive plants, composed of all levels of government, various economic sectors, First Nations, and other interests in the Cariboo, Chilcotin and Central Coast.

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Media Contact:
Mike Simpson, CCCIPC
(250) 392-1400

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