Welcome & News Blog
Article from the Squamish Chief (7th November 2013):
Knotweed drives up DOS bills
Request for $350K to battle invasive plant forwarded to budget process
There’s a battle going on in Squamish, one that could cost an estimated $1.2 million.
Japanese knotweed has spread roots around more than 43 hectares of land within the District of Squamish’s boundaries. The aggressive invasive plant can be found on 192 locations around town, reaching from Crown land to school properties, noted a report tabled to council at Committee of the Whole on Tuesday (Nov. 5).
“It is quite extensive,” said Bob Smith, the municipality’s director of operations. “There is a fairly big concern there.”
Since 2010, the municipality has contributed $4,000 a year to the Sea to Sky Invasive Species Council (SSISC) to train employees on identifying and dealing with various invasive plant species. Last year, council granted the non-profit society an additional $4,000 in the district’s operations budget to manage unwanted plants on district-owned land.
While the district and SSICS are in the process of mapping out all its invasive species sites, Japanese knotweed is growing at an exponential rate. To kill the plant, which poses a serious threat to infrastructure and the environment, a chemical must be injected into the stem of each plant, or they can be chopped down and the re-growth sprayed with glyphosate — a.k.a. Round-up.
The SSISC requested an additional $4,000 in next year’s budget to remove knotweed to provide safe sightlines and clear access to municipal infrastructure.
The total budget to treat all of the Japanese knotweed within the district totals $1.2 million, staff noted. If council dealt solely with knotweed of district-owned land, the bill sits at $351,000.
It’s a hefty price tag, Coun. Doug Race noted. Although the municipal piggy bank likely doesn’t hold enough cash to deal with knotweed throughout the district, he suggested Squamish tackle knotweed on its own land.
“At the very least we should be responsible for our land, taking a leadership role,” Race said, noting the bill could be broken down over three years.
Officials backed Race’s motion to forward the request to the district’s budgeting process.
Thanks to everyone who came out to Rose Park last Saturday (29th September) in the pouring rain to celebrate Rivers Day, help plant trees and remove weeds!
SSISC set up an information booth and thanks to some keen volunteers, we removed a big patch of blackberry on the western edge of Rose Park.
Already looking forward to next year!
Community Weed Pull in Rose Park. Photo: Edith Tobe
The tree planters!. Photo: Toshi Kawano
Information Booth by the Squamish Streamkeepers Society & SSISC. Photo: Toshi Kawano
SSISC Information Booth. Photo: Clare O'Brien
2013 Rivers Day participants. Photo: Toshi Kawano
The world's biggest rat-killing campaign underway on South Georgia Island.
By Roff Smith for National Geographic
South Georgia Island, a lonely British Antarctic territory in the far South Atlantic, has a rat problem.
Since the furry stowaways landed here aboard sealing and whaling ships in the 19th century, they've been wreaking ecological havoc on the island and its ground-nesting seabirds by preying on the birds and their eggs.
Enter an international team of wildlife biologists, who have recently completed the second phase of history's largest rat-eradication program on the remote island.
Braving appalling weather in the run-up to the Antarctic winter, the group's helicopter pilots logged hundreds of hours in perilous flying conditions to spread nearly 200 tons of rat poison over 224 square miles (580 square kilometers) of South Georgia's coastline.
The ultimate goal: To rid this once supreme seabird habitat of its millions of rats once and for all. South Georgia was probably the richest seabird-breeding area in the world when British Captain James Cook visited it in 1775, according to Tony Martin of the University of Dundee, who leads the rat-eradication campaign on behalf of the South Georgia Heritage Trust. (See more pictures of South Georgia.)
Now the island has less than one percent of its original seabird population, he said. "And that is down to rats. This is a human-induced problem, and it is down to humans to do something about it."
And they are. This recent bait drop follows a successful trial two years ago, which cleared 10 percent of South Georgia of the invasive rodents. Next year, Martin said, the group plans to return and finish the job, hopefully rendering South Georgia rat-free by 2015.
"This is ten times bigger than anything that has ever been attempted anywhere else," Martin said.
Oh, Rats: Getting Rid of Rodents
South Georgia's ambitious rat-eradication campaign may be the world's biggest at the moment, but it's far from the only one. (Watch a video of rats at night.)
Many of the world's most biologically important island ecosystems have been invaded by rats. Many seabirds nest, breed, and raise their young on islands because they've been historically safe from predators—until rats came along.
What's more, while islands may represent only 5 percent of the world's land mass, they account for half of all the world's endangered species.
As of last count 435 islands around the world have been cleared of rats, according to Island Conservation, an organization that works to remove invasive species on islands. It's a number that is growing quickly, and so is the success rate.
The projects try their best not to hurt the species they're supposed to protect.
For one, the rat poison, brodifacoum, is not water soluble, so it can't leach into the groundwater or poison waterways.
Some seabird scavengers could eat stricken rats and become ill, though the rat carcasses are hard to find: The poison makes the rats photophobic, or shy of light, so the rodents usually retreat to their burrows before dying.
It's possible that a few duck or other birds may ingest the poisonous pellets, but since rats eat thousands and possibly millions of chicks a year overall, poison is still the better strategy, experts say.
"This is a war that is being won island by island," said Brad Keitt, the group's director of conservation. (Also see "Giant Killer Mice Decimating Rare Seabirds.")
Even so, "each island, of course, brings with it its own challenges," said veteran helicopter pilot Peter Garden, a New Zealander who worked on rat-eradication projects in Campbell Island, South Georgia, the Seychelles, the South Pacific, Alaska, and the Caribbean.
"South Georgia was especially tough," he said. "Its remote location in the South Atlantic made it a huge logistical challenge, and ... it receives some ferocious weather.
"The fact that it is also the largest breeding area in the South Atlantic for seabirds means that there are always lots of large birds sharing the airspace, and this creates quite a hazard for us. We are operating around 150 feet [46 meters] above the ground, where a lot of bird activity occurs."
Here are some islands that are aggressively ridding their homes of rats.
New Zealanders lead the field when it comes to getting rid of rats, according to Martin.
"They began focusing on rat eradication on their own islands back in the 1980s in order to try to preserve their native wildlife. Over the years they've had a lot of successes, developed a huge amount of expertise, and in the 1990s began perfecting the science of using helicopters to make aerial bait drops over large areas." (Also see "Drug-filled Mice Airdropped Over Guam to Kill Snakes.")
New Zealand's successful campaign to remove nearly a quarter of a million brown rats from Campbell Island—a 44-square-mile (114-square-kilometer) sub-Antarctic island—was the world's largest rat-eradication project when it was completed in 2001. Twelve years later the island is rat-free and the once critically endangered Campbell Island teal—a duck that fell victim to the rats—has bounced back. (See seabird pictures.)
Sophisticated poison-dispersal techniques using GPS guidance and specially designed spreader buckets slung under the helicopters were developed for the Campbell Island operation, and went on to pave the way for the much larger one on South Georgia.
Lord Howe Island, Australia
A U.S. $9 million program to eradicate an estimated 130,000 rats on the island, a subtropical paradise located 370 miles (595 kilometers) off Australia's eastern coast, was launched in July 2012.
Rats originally arrived aboard the S.S. Makambo, which ran aground on the north end of the island in June 1918. It was a catastrophe—at least 30 species of wildlife have since disappeared completely from the island, while another 13 species remain under threat. Lord Howe Island has often been cited as a worst-case example of rat devastation.
Queen Charlotte Islands, British Columbia
Sometimes described as the Galápagos of the north, the chain of islands in British Columbia has some of the largest remaining seabird colonies in Canada.
At one time these seabirds could be counted in the hundreds of thousands, but three centuries of rat infestation have whittled their numbers down to 20,000 or so.
Last September a rat-eradication program was launched, and so far two of the islands have been cleared of rats.
Galápagos Islands, Ecuador
The breathtaking island chain off Ecuador's coast, famous for its bird and reptile life, is home to an estimated 180 million rats—courtesy of the whalers who often stopped here in centuries past.
As elsewhere, the rodents have been an ecological disaster, devouring every single tortoise hatchling for the past hundred years.
Last November the Ecuadorian government set into motion South America's biggest rat-eradication scheme, hoping to have the island chain free of rats by 2020
Many battles in the long war against invasive species are being fought in Sea to Sky this summer, with crews from the Sea to Sky Invasive Species Council going after some of the worst offenders.
For Whistler that has meant continuing the battle against Japanese Knotweed, an aggressive and extremely hard to destroy plant that can damage foundations of buildings and other infrastructure, and that can regenerate itself from a single sliver of root matter. As well, the SSISC has opened a new front against a wetland plant, the Yellow Flag Iris.
"That's a big one because it was mistakenly planted here by a number of different people, and it spreads abundantly and has a really deep root system that makes it difficult to remove," said Nicolette Richer of the SSISC. "What you have to do is try to get it before it goes to seed, remove all the leaves and stems and try to get the roots out... you try to dig up as much of the root system as possible but in two or three feet of water that's difficult to do."
If you keep hacking away at the plant and preventing the spread of seeds over a period of years, Richer said the plant will eventually die.
It's a long process, she said, but that's nothing unusual in her field.
"It is a long-time commitment for invasive species management, some seeds from invasive species can sit there dormant for years before sprouting," she said.
And in the case of plants like Yellow Flag Iris, the seeds can travel down waterways and cover a huge amount of ground in a short period of time. What also makes it a priority is the fact that it has no natural predators and can take over a wetland and swamp in a few years, displacing the plants that other species of animals depend on. "It overtakes everything," said Richer.
Richer is encouraging people to download a new Report-a-Weed BC app that lets people photograph and map data on plants they've seen, and compare their pictures to other pictures in the database. The results of that data collection are shared with groups liked the SSISC, which takes action on the ground to limit their spread.
The Yellow Flag Iris has been pulled from areas that include the man-made waterway behind the Whistler Public Library and the wetlands around the Montebello development.
Knotweed is also an ongoing concern in Whistler, and crews have attacked a few plants this year.
Richer says controlling invasive species in Whistler is aided by the climate, while things are more serious in Squamish and Pemberton.
"In Squamish, Giant Hogweed is a huge concern and any time there is a sighting we will go in and remove it," she said.
Hogweed is unique among invasive species in that it can actually harm people, oozing a sap that reacts with sunlight to cause serious burns to skin. There have been cases of blindness reported in Europe as a result of exposure.
Another major concern is Japanese Knotweed. "It's overtaken the estuary in Squamish," said Richer. "The photos are astounding, if you go there you can see that nothing else is growing there.
"Along the highways Scotch Broom is a big one, and another one we've noticed recently is Orange Hawkweed. We're trying to prevent it from making its way up into the alpine, but we can see it creeping up the mountains and along the highway, in ditches and on private land."
Pemberton also has similar plants, along with burdock, which is of special concern to farmers. Chamomile is also spreading.
Richer says it's important to stay on top of these species and to involve the public and contractors like landscapers wherever possible. "We do need funding, and one of the things that's getting municipalities on board and recognizing that it's a significant issue is the fact that its already costing municipalities billions of dollars a year, and the agricultural loss and economic loss is significant.... We need a budget set aside to destroy these species and control the ones that can't be eradicated."
For more on the Sea to Sky Invasive Species Council, visit www.ssisc.info. The website has information on various invasive species and programs that are available.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has approved a final rule which would allow for biofuels made from two well known invasive species to qualify for credits under the Federal Renewable Fuels Standard. The rule, which was finalized late last Friday afternoon, allows two invasive grasses, Arundo donax (also known as giant reed)—assessed by the U.S. Department of Agriculture as being a high-risk species—andPennisetum purpureum (commonly called napier grass), to qualify as cellulosic biofuel feedstocks under the Renewable Fuel Standard.
“By allowing producers to grow these two invasive plants for biofuel production, the EPA is recklessly opening a Pandora’s box,” said Aviva Glaser, legislative representative for agriculture policy at the National Wildlife Federation. “We want to move forward with ho
The EPA rule, which was first proposed in January 2012, has been publicly opposed by more than 100 state, local, and national groups, including the National Wildlife Federation. Arundo donax is a non-native species that is a well-known and well-documented invader of natural areas. Currently listed as one of the world’s 100 worst invasive species, the plant is particularly destructive to riparian areas where it quickly becomes established. It has been shown to crowd out native-plant species, contribute to greater and more intense wild fires, and destroy habitat for threatened and endangered species such as the Least Bell’s Vireo. The U.S. Department of Agriculture, in their June 2012 weed risk assessment, concluded with very high certainty that Arundo donax is a high-risk species, noting that it is a “highly invasive grass” and a “serious environmental weed.”
The rule does require certain producers to put risk mitigation plans in place, but it has significant loopholes. Even with best management practices, wide-spread cultivation of these two highly invasive grasses is incredibly risky.
“Assuming that best management practices will prevent the escape of highly invasive weeds grown on a large scale is naïve, risky and dangerous,” Glaser said. “We’ve seen time and time again with invasive species that good intentions can result in expensive unintended consequences.”
megrown sources of renewable energy, but by doing so, we don’t want to fuel the next invasive species catastrophe.”
For the full article visit http://www.earthtechling.com/2013/07/biofuels-from-invasive-species-plants-opens-pandoras-box/
Invasive Species are spreading their way into the world of smartphone apps! But this kind of spread is okay with us.
Report-a-weed is an online invasive plant reporting tool that anyone and everyone with an Android, iPhone or internet access can use to simply identify and report weed sightings from anywhere in BC. Too good to be true? Us plant nerds (aka. enthusiasts) are pretty excited about this one.
Report-a-Weed is a tool within the Invasive Alien Plant Program (IAPP) Map Display application, which is an interactive mapping tool that assists land management agencies, non-government organizations, and the general public in developing and delivering effective invasive plant management programs throughout BC.
Not too sure whether the plant you are looking at is invasive or not? The Report-A-Weed tool lets you send a weed report directly to the IAPP database where it will be compared to known locations of the reported species, and will be sent directly to a provincial invasive plant specialist for your area who will action the report. The specialist may share the report with the local weed committee coordinator for further action.
Features of the Report-A-Weed App include:
- a map of BC that displays the 500 most recent submission details
- statistics on the number of locations reported for each species
- the ability to search through images of all 202 invasive plant species on the list.
How do you send in a report? Just follow these few simple steps:
- Open Map Display
- Navigate and zoom to the location where you spotted the invasive plant
- Activate the Report a Weed tool
- Mark the location on the map by clicking on it with your mouse
- Enter the necessary data in the Report-a-Weed Wizard screens
- Click Submit
While we still very much encourage residents of the Sea to Sky Corridor to report invasive plant sightings to us at SSISC, the Report-A-Weed app can act a supplemental step in the identifying process.
Further information can be found at: http://www.reportaweedbc.ca/
SSISC Open House & AGM
Wednesday April 24th, 1 - 4 pm
Executive Suites Hotel, Squamish (40900 Tantalus Rd.)
Please join us for this FREE event to learn about the latest invasive news from local and regional partners, connect with others interested in invasive species management, and have a say on what’s important to you.
In addition to hearing about what the SSISC is planning in 2013, other partners providing updates and opportunities for discussion include:
- District of Squamish
- Squamish River Watershed Society
- Resort Municipality of Whistler
- South Coast Conservation Program (species at risk)
- Squamish-Lillooet Regional District
- BC Hydro
- BC Parks
- Province of BC (herbicide use around water)
- Squamish Nation
- Neighbouring invasive organization
- and more!
Tasty treats and beverages will also be served.
If you’re looking to get more involved with the group there are exciting opportunities for formal Director and informal Adviser positions. Please contact SSISC before the event to inquire.
For more information on opportunities or the event contact Kristina at firstname.lastname@example.org, 604-698-8334 or visit www.ssisc.info.
Want to tackle invasive species? Join the Invasive Species Council of Metro Vancouver (ISCMV) for its annual Spring Forum, April 11th, 2013 at the Richmond Oval.
Dig into this forum and discover all aspects of invasive species management including:
- New Treatment Methodology,
- Volunteer Engagement,
- Updates on Legislation and Aquatic/Riparian Herbicide Use, and
Get all the info here.
We encourage you to register by April 8th.
See you there!