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City report tackles invasive species

Staff recommendation calls for council to implement $40,000 control and eradication plan to support and coordinate volunteer efforts

City staff are recommending city council implement a $40,000 invasive plant plan to help control and eradicate invasive species such as Scotch broom.

The plan would include $15,000 of new funding in the first three years of the five-year implementation plan and $10,000 of additional funding in years four and five. The money would go towards chemical control of knotweed and extra pick up and disposal efforts among other things.

The city is also recommending council spend $25,000 on a brand-new, part-time invasive species coordinator position for invasive species management and to help implement the plan.

Terri Martin, the city’s environmental coordinator, said while Greenways Land Trust, BroomBusters, and the city have all put forward a tremendous effort to help eliminate invasive plants – particularly Scotch broom – the effort has been disjointed.

Martin said an environmental coordinator would help coordinate those efforts by creating an invasive plant inventory that would include treatments and monitoring activities, conduct eduction and outreach to the community, and supervise volunteer groups conducting invasive species management.

“Without this position, invasive species management will continue to be ad hoc,” Martin said in a report to council. “Without further resources to coordinate efforts, invasive plant species will continue to spread on private and public lands.”

There are four action levels – prevent, eradicate, contain and control – that the city will further develop strategic management actions towards under the invasive plant management plan.

Martin said the initiative is key to Campbell River because, under a study done by the Coastal Invasive Species Committee (CISC) which was contracted to prepare the five-year invasive plant implementation plan, 32 different varieties of invasive plants were recorded.

“Eighteen of these are CISC priority species (in the contain and control categories) and eight plants are B.C. regulated noxious weeds, which includes four species of knotweed, Canada thistle, purple loosestrife, tansy ragwort and yellow flag iris,” Martin said. “Species with the largest populations include Scotch broom, purple loosestrife, and Himalayan blackberry.”

Martin said no species were found that are on a provincial watch list, or that fall under the prevent category, but city staff have encountered and immediately treated one of the more serious invasive plants – giant hogweed.

“Currently, giant hogweed is the only invasive plant in Campbell River that falls into the eradicate action category of the CISC priority list,” Martin said. “This plant is also a B.C. regulated noxious weed with significant health risks.”

Giant hogweed stem-hairs and leaves contain a clear, highly toxic sap that, when it comes in contact with your skin, can cause blisters, burns and scarring, said Martin.

But the city’s invasive species management plan is aimed at tackling nuisance plants like the giant hogweed.

The five-year plan includes 37 strategic actions to address these invasive plants in 10 different management areas: prevention, early detection and rapid response, management priorities for established invasive plants, mapping/data records, control methods for invasive plants, work plans for prioritized municipal environmentally sensitive lands, monitoring and adaptive management, collaboration, education, and legislation.

“The strategic actions will allow significant gaps in the management of invasive species to be addressed,” Martin said. “For instance, city staff and Greenways Land Trust are currently overwhelmed with invasive plant reports with little capacity to work with the public to address their concerns, manage the data, and treat the infestations.”

The five-year management plan is part of an invasive species policy that council adopted in July, 2013.

Council reviewed Martin’s current report on the management plan at its last committee of the whole meeting and agreed to review setting aside funding for the plan, as well as for the part-time coordinator position, during its 2016 budget deliberations which get underway in  December or January.