Invasive species one of greatest threats to biodiversity, say two B.C. ministers

By Andrew Cowie

Two B.C. ministers are sounding a warning on the threat of invasive species and what is being done to battle this problem.

Josie Osborne, minister of land, water and resource stewardship, and Katrine Conroy, minister of forests, released a joint statement in connection with Invasive Species Action Month this May.

“Invasive species are one of five main threats to declines in biodiversity, and if not effectively managed, can affect the well-being of our communities and economies,” the statement said. “That is why we share a collective responsibility in our efforts to prevent the introduction and spread of invasive species.”

The report suggests people should be vigilant in their neighbourhood and keep an eye out for any invasive species they might see on the land or in the water.

“Over the years, many thousands of volunteers have worked tirelessly throughout the province to remove invasive plants, such as Scotch broom and English ivy, and vigilantly reported invasive animals and insects, from the Asian giant hornet to the European green crab. Their actions go a long way to protect native plant and animal life in B.C.,” they added.

“This work includes conducting more than 200,000 watercraft inspections since 2015 through the Invasive Mussel Defence Program, monitoring lakes and educating the public about the threat of invasive mussels.”

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This month also marks the start of field season for the Invasive Species Council of British Columbia “Action Teams,” currently working in nine B.C. communities.

The ISCBC says invasive species pose the second greatest threat to biodiversity after habitat loss.

Last year the ISCBC had 14 teams visit and help treat 775 sites across B.C., with one crew pulling out over 550 lbs. of Himalayan blackberry, and another crew pulling out close to 5,400 Daphne (Spurge-laurel) plants.

“So far, as part of this program we have hired and trained 176 people to make a positive difference in BC’s natural spaces,” said Gail Wallin, executive director with ISCBC. “Our goal … is to hire 200 people to help tackle invasive species.”

Currently the teams are working at removing species around Campbell River, Nanaimo, Surrey, Abbotsford, Kamloops, Salmon Arm, Quesnel, Nelson, and Cranbrook.

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