Tackling invasive species in our own backyard

Dianne St. Jean

On Sunday afternoon, June 10 over 35 people including local Guides, Sparks, Brownies and Junior Rangers and other volunteers gathered together for a Community Weed Pull at Cranberry Marsh, Valemount.

Korie Marshall (Northwest Invasive Plant Council and Aquatic Species Invasive Species Coordinator, Valemount) organized a muster point at Canoeview Place Park (recently re-named) just behind the Best Western hotel where volunteers were provided with hand tools and work gloves.

The focus of the work group was Canada thistle, commonly mistaken to be a plant native to Canada.

Not ‘just a weed’ or wildflower

When people hear the word invasive many assume this to refer to animals, insects or fish, but even plants that may be regarded as innocent ‘wild flowers’ can be harmful to an environment by crowding out native species and overtaking vast amounts of landmass. This includes Canada thistle.

Invasive species pose risks to existing ecosystems and ultimately economies as well through loss of native species (upsetting the balance of an ecosystem) and expense of tackling their invasion.

According to the Invasive Species Council of BC (ISCBC) invasive species cost Canada between $16.6 billion and $34.5 billion each year. In British Columbia alone, just six invasive plants caused an estimated combined damage of at least $65 million in 2008, and further spread is estimated to double by 2020.

Maintaining Cranberry Marsh

The proliferation of Canada thistle at Cranberry Marsh, a site regularly visited and enjoyed by local and visiting hikers and bird watchers, makes hiking the trails uncomfortable in shorts in late summer, commented Marshall, adding that as part of a wildlife management area (MWA), the use of herbicides is not allowed. 

“Hand-pulling is the only way to tackle the prickly plants,” says Marshall.

“Volunteers pulled 12 bags of mostly small, young plants, which were marked as ‘invasive plant material’ and taken to the transfer station for disposal.”

Despite the progress, however, it will take a concerted effort over the next few years to get the thistle under control.

The community weed pull was organized by the Northwest Invasive Plant Council, with help from Duncan McColl, Ecosystems Biologist with the Ministry of Forests, Lands, Natural Resource Operations and Rural Development, Dave Rogers and Dayna Hassell of Spectrum Resources Group, and sponsored by Fish and Wildlife Compensation Fund.

Community volunteers pulled together for the Community Weed Pull at Cranberry Marsh on Sunday, June 10. In total they filled 12 bags of Canada thistle.  Submitted photos.
Community volunteers pulled together for the Community Weed Pull at Cranberry Marsh on Sunday, June 10. In total they filled 12 bags of Canada thistle. Submitted photos.

Tackling invasive species in our own backyard