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Vernon MLA Report: Invasive species must be stopped

Vernon Morning Star, May 25, 2016 by Erin Foster: Invasive species are unwelcome intruders on the natural environment we hold dear.

Some of those spring blossoms you’re seeing this spring might not be native to B.C. There is a long list of invasive plants that have been introduced from other regions. They can pose health risks to people and animals and they can harm native plants and natural ecosystems. Here in the North Okanagan, that means invasive species can threaten our agriculture industry.

Our lakes and rivers are vital to our way of life in the North Okanagan, but invasive quagga and zebra mussels pose a serious threat to our aquatic ecosystems, salmon populations, hydro power stations and other infrastructure facilities. They can clog pipes, cause ecological and economic damage, displace native aquatic plants and wildlife, degrade the environment and affect drinking-water quality.

Fortunately, the B.C. government is fighting back against invasive species on land and water.

Last month, the Regional District of North Okanagan received a grant of $36,800 from our government to help control the spread of invasive plants.

This is one of 31 grants, totalling $1.727 million, being distributed throughout the province in 2016 to local governments, regional invasive species committees and the Invasive Species Council of B.C.

Also this spring, the provincial government provided a $2 million boost to our invasive mussel defence program.

The program will see eight permanent mussel inspection stations installed at major entry points along B.C.’s borders with Alberta and the U.S. In total, 32 conservation officers will work the stations, which will operate 10 hours a day, seven days a week from April through October. This is an increase of 20 crew members from last year’s pilot project and an additional six mobile decontamination units are being added to the fleet.

The B.C. government has proclaimed May as Invasive Species Action Month to help raise awareness of the environmental and economic damage that invasive plants and animals can cause if they become established. As part of Invasive Species Action Month, we are encouraging British Columbians to learn more about non-native invasive plants and animals that can displace other species and have a negative impact on our ecosystems.

More information is at www.bcinvasivesmonth.com.

We all know how much we cherish our natural environment around Vernon and the North Okanagan, which is why it’s important to learn how to prevent, detect and manage invasive species.

Eric Foster is Vernon-Monashee MLA

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