Cariboo Regional District directors have voted unanimously to take action against a South Cariboo ranching company if it fails to comply with measures to stop the spread of invasive knapweed on its properties.
In a weighted vote of the CRD board on Nov. 13, directors agreed to send a letter to Blue Goose Cattle Co. (BGCC) asking for voluntary compliance to address the knapweed infestations by the end of June 2021. If that doesn’t happen, the CRD will proceed through a court-ordered injunction.
Knapweed is identified as a serious threat to rangelands and forests of the western U.S. and Canada because it reduces forage production and quality and increases management costs and production losses for the agriculture industry.
“It’s been a re-occurring issue over the years, and we’ve been trying to work with Blue Goose to try to come to some type of collaborative or co-operative agreement for them to do their part and we’ve had mixed results,” said Emily Sonntag, invasive plant management co-ordinator with the CRD.
Blue Goose Cattle Co. is a certified organic cattle ranching operation responsible for management and stewardship of over 250,000 acres of leased and deeded land within the CRD’s Central and South Cariboo and Chilcotin regions. A CRD report notes inspections completed on July 15 this year showed spotted knapweed presence on 14 separate properties owned by BGCC, particularly on the company’s 111 and 105 Mile, Walker Valley and Soda Lake properties.
Sonntag said collaboration and communication between the CRD and the company have deteriorated over the past eight years.
“The infestation is getting denser and larger, which has been noticed by a lot of residents in the area, as well as our program, so the problem is getting worse … I have not seen any evidence a concerted effort has taken place [on their behalf],” she said.
However, Blue Goose Cattle Co. ranch manager Frank Schlueter, who was not at the CRD meeting, said contrary to the CRD’s report to the board, the company has been diligent and proactive since 2015, in its attempts to curtail the knapweed spread. It is not simply a “Blue Goose issue,” he added.
“[In 2015] we hired a local (RPBio) biologist to introduce biological control in the form of predatory seed weevils and root weevils in order to get ahead of the issue,” Schlueter noted in an emailed response.
“Clearly, we have inherited this invasive plant issue from previous owners, as untreated and unmanaged knapweed on large sites has existed on the lands for decades.”
Schlueter said knapweed commonly spreads into grasslands beginning from roadsides and is brought into the area by vehicle traffic.
“Public roadways with weeds, which are left unchecked and untreated for decades, can cause large knapweed outbreaks,” he said.
“[This is] a larger community issue, brought about and started by neglect over early decades of lack of roadside weed management. These include Blue Goose, the CRD and potentially other funding sources for remediation.”
Sonntag said the BGCC’s properties will be inspected next spring for evidence of compliance. If the company fails to voluntarily comply, the CRD will invite BGCC to a board meeting to justify why further enforcement actions are not warranted.
“It’s hard to say how large the infestation is now,” Sonntag said. “It could be a lot larger, and it is going to be extremely costly. I have ballparked it and, because it is an organic operation, if they are going to tackle it mechanically, costs are just under $6,000 a hectare … that’s going to be about $200,000 if it is around 80 hectares.
“I would expect they control the smaller infestations and start working into the main infestation. It’s going to be a multi-year process.”