Invasive species concern highlighted

The EKISC recently held a number of open houses in the Columbia Valley to highlight the concern around invasive species.

After several open house events held across the Columbia Valley in late September, the East Kootenay Invasive Species Council (EKISC) is continuing to search for ways to stress the importance of invasive species ahead of their October general meeting.

Starting on September 22nd, the EKISC held an open house series in Radium, Invermere, Canal Flats, Kimberley, Cranbrook, Fernie and Elkford, providing the small organization the opportunity to communicate the work they do while sharing with the East Kootenay community the programs and resources they currently have to help prevent the spread of invasive species.

Todd Larsen, executive director at the EKISC, said that he was disappointed in the amount of participation at the open houses in Radium, Invermere and Canal Flats but hopes the importance of the message is carried on from those who were in attendance.

“People who were there were just concerned about how they should be involved and wanted to know more about how to identify weeds or just make different landowners accountable for weeds and municipalities having a bylaw to prevent the spread of weeds,” Larsen said.

Part of what was discussed at the meetings were the different types of invasive species that people could expect to see throughout the Columbia Valley that may not be visible in other areas of the province.

Two of these species that Larsen mentioned include the Black Henbane found near the Windermere District Cemetery and the Perennial Pepperweed found in Windermere. Larsen said he thinks that the warm dry climate associated with the Columbia Valley and its demographics are part of what allows these two species to exist exclusively in this area of the province.

“The vectors of spread, or how they’re introduced to the area, because the Columbia Valley does have visitors from different regions coming through as either tourists or summer residents, may be bringing horticultural plants and planting, those that then escape from gardens,” he said.

Larsen said what makes these specific plant species “invasive” has to do with their ability to be what he calls “prolific seeders”, as plants that outcompete and dominate other plants in specific environments.

“In the case of both those species, once it has been established in an area, they produce a lot of seeds and will spread quickly and prevent other plants from establishing and just take off in that area,” he said, noting that the long-term effects of inaction can be drastic if ignored.

“We know seeing other areas that aren’t treated or are too far gone. If you go into northern Montana you’ll see fields that used to be pasture or crop and are just fields of knapweed now and nothing will grow there so it’s lost either that biological diversity sense or wildlife origin or even from an economics standpoint, losing that value there,” he said.

One week prior to the open house series, the EKISC invited their members and East Kootenay residents to join in their annual field tour on September 15th. The 30 participants on the tour had the opportunity to stop at invasive plant viewpoints throughout the valley such as the Yellow Flag Iris site in Skookumchuck Narrows while learning the importance of early detection and rapid response of these species.

“It’s important for anyone, if you’re a landowner or land user through recreation or hunting or anything, to know what’s out there and know what we’re looking for,” Larsen said. “There are different ways to do that, like we put on workshops and there’s information online, books and there’s also an app and a website that’s called ‘Report a Weed’ so we encourage everyone to check that out and if they see a well-known common weed like Spotted Knapweed they can put that on there, but if there’s something they’re not sure about like Black Henbane we can react to it immediately.”

With October’s general meeting only weeks away on October 27th in Cranbrook, Larsen said the mission is about getting the information out about the importance of invasive species.

“We’re really trying to figure out how can we better get people to care more about weeds or if they don’t care, should we have a different focus on that?” he said. “We’re trying to get more direction on that for how the Columbia Valley wants to go with that.”

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