Strategies on Invasive Species
In 2005 the Invasive Plant Council of BC — now the Invasive Species Council of BC — made its mark in Canada by creating the first province-wide strategy to tackle the problem of invasive plants. Over 300 organizations and individuals across sectors signed a memorandum of support under an Invasive Plant Strategy for BC and worked together in coordination. Today the organization has expanded its scope to include both plant and animal invasive species and offers guidance nationally and internationally. Visit www.bcinvasives.ca.
Invasive plant species have been staging a steady invasion in many parts of BC. During a field tour of the Cariboo-Chilcotin in 2002, Fraser Basin Council Directors saw first-hand how the spread of invasive plants had transformed landscapes, upset local ecosystems and reduced the land available for range and crops. Here was a pressing sustainability issue and an opportunity for FBC to make a difference.
A Thorny Issue
From purple loosestrife to giant hogweed, over 200 invasive plants are now prevalent in BC. They crowd out native plants and decrease biodiversity. On BC’s agricultural lands, they can reduce crop yields by an average of 10-15%. Some species inflict even more harm. A 2005 study showed that spotted and diffuse knapweed (invasive plants in BC’s north and interior) can reduce cattle forage by up to 90%. At that point in time, knapweed was estimated to cover 40,000 hectares in BC and was poised to dominate over one million hectares of grassland and forest fringe. The calculated cost to ranchers of these species was $400,000 per year, a loss that could exceed $13 million per year should knapweed spread to the limits of its range.
The introduction and spread of invasive plants happens on multiple fronts, such as through international, national, and regional travel and trade; horticulture and gardening, transportation and utility corridors; seed mixtures; recreation; and through passage of livestock, wildlife, pets and people.
This was a multi-faceted problem, and one calling for action on multiple fronts.
An Invasive Plant Strategy for BC
In 2002 FBC hosted a meeting of representatives from provincial and local governments, First Nations, NGOs and industry. The purpose was to discuss invasive plants in BC. This one step led to others. Soon there were collaborative efforts to create an Invasive Plant Strategy for BC, featuring an action plan to address invasive plants throughout the province.
IPC Chair Duncan Barnett (left) presents FBC Executive Director David Marshall with a certificate acknowledging the Fraser Basin Council for its leadership in launching the Invasive Plant Council of BC and for ongoing support. The presentation was made in Richmond at the 2010 annual forum.
The Invasive Plant Council
FBC recognized early that a long-term commitment and collaboration were critical to success on invasive plants.
In 2005 the Invasive Plant Council of BC was created to advance the Invasive Plant Strategy. The IPC was structured as an independent body with a consensus-based board representing various sectors and regions. Participants included all orders of government, non-profit organizations, land and water-based user groups, resource-based businesses and industries and utilities. Staff of the FBC Cariboo-Chilcotin office provided support.
- In its first five years, IPC helped to establish and support local invasive plant committees across BC.
- Over 300 organizations and individuals signed a memorandum of support under the Invasive Plants Strategy for BC and joined in the effort.
- IPC brought together a large circle of participants to learn more about invasive plants and coordinate efforts. They have included technical specialists working for government and industry, weed committee coordinators, First Nations representatives, forest professionals, biologists, ranchers, horticulturists, recreation enthusiasts, gardeners, and other concerned individuals. This work will continue, encompassing both invasive plants and animals, under the expanded mandate.
- IPC created resources and organized training for those working “on the ground” in multiple sectors and jurisdictions. Tip sheets, technical reports and other resources on controlling invasive species are tailored for different audiences — from local government decision-makers to forestry workers, landscapers and home gardeners. And no generation has been neglected — there are even “Invader Ranger” kits to support youth groups.
- A forum is held each year, drawing hundreds from across BC and beyond to learn about invasive species and deepen their networks.
Branching out — the Invasive Species Council of BC
In 2012 the IPC expanded its mandate to encompass invasive species of both plants and animals, and changed its name to the Invasive Species Council (ISC) of BC. The Council facilitated the completion of an Invasive Species Strategy for BC.
The ISC works to:
- increase awareness and encourage responsible actions to avoid spreading invasive species
- improve practices and operations across governments, First Nations, industry and communities to reduce the impacts of invasive species
- secure long-term, stable funding for invasive species management and coordination in BC.
The Invasive Species Council of BC’s website is your first stop for news, resources and program information. Drop by!