July 5-12, 2004

BC boosts spending to control invasive plant, weed species

The British Columbia government will spend a record total of $8 million over the next two years to protect valuable forest and range land from the effects of non-native plants and weeds. Water, Land and Air Protection Minister Bill Barisoff said the province will increase spending on invasive weed control by $3.3 million over the next two years.

Left unchecked, invasive plants reproduce aggressively and can destroy wildlife habitat, crowd out endangered plant species, diminish property values and cause crop and livestock losses. Invasive plants cost BC's economy tens of millions of dollars each year in lost productivity, and can reduce crop yields by an average of 10 to 15%. Some of B.C.'s most threatened and endangered ecosystems, such as the Garry oak meadows of Vancouver Island, are being destroyed by non-native species such as Scotch broom and the Himalayan blackberry.

"This significant funding commitment - the most B.C. has ever spent on invasive plant control - reflects the important our government places on this matter and is due in large part to MLA Dave Chutter's leadership on this issue," Barisoff noted.

The increased funding will significantly expand existing provincial programs that target invasive plants on Crown land and in transportation corridors, and provide grants to local governments to encourage new regional weed-control programs.

"Invasive plants impact the productivity of range land and can significantly delay forest regeneration," said Agriculture, Food and Fisheries Minister John van Dongen. "This funding is in support of ranchers, farmers and communities in our efforts to control non-native plants and weeds."

The increased funding will support a number of new invasive plant control projects provincewide. Projects approved to date include noxious weed management inventory and assessments in the East Kootenay, the development of an invasive plant management plan in the Mid-Skeena Watershed of the Gitxsan Nation, and invasive plant control in Lac du Bois Grasslands Protected Area near Kamloops.

Funds will also go towards post-fire weed management in the Okanagan region, where fire-stricken areas are highly susceptible to encroachment from invasive plants. Additional regional projects are expected to be approved in the coming months.

In addition to the funding, Barisoff announced the creation of an Invasive Plant Advisory Panel, chaired by Yale-Lillooet MLA Dave Chutter, who has played a key role in raising awareness of the threats posed by invasive plants. The panel will provide advice to government on long-term solutions to control invasive weeds and plants on Crown land.

The provincial initiative will complement efforts already underway by the Fraser Basin Council, which has co-ordinated the development of a province-wide strategy to combat the problem of invasive, non-native species. The province recently confirmed its endorsement of the council's strategy.

"British Columbia is under attack from alien plant species, and we've been losing the battle," said Fraser Basin Council chair Patrick Reid. "The Fraser Basin Council is very pleased by the province's support for the Invasive Plant Strategy and hopes the endorsement will act as a catalyst for others to support the work of the new Invasive Plant Council."

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