Roadside weeds a noxious problem

Rancher points to inadequate invasive plant spraying

A Tatton Road rancher says she and other residents are unhappy about the roadside invasive plant control in the 105 Mile and 108 Mile Ranch areas.

“A lot of landowners and ranchers are concerned about it,” says Cheryl Monical.

Their main problem is the volume of invasive weeds evidenced along Highway 97; knapweed plants in particular, which are now going to seed.

The Ministry of Agriculture website notes knapweed infestations are “causing major environmental deterioration and loss of beef production” in the southern Interior of British Columbia.

“If left unchecked, the loss to ranchers and recreational users could be disastrous,” it states.

As an executive member of the Cariboo Chilcotin Invasive Plant Committee (CCIPC), the Cariboo Regional District (CRD) works with CCIPC to carry out the roadside weed spraying contract for the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure (MoTI).

Monical says when she called the CRD last year, she was told the budget covers annual noxious weed control for highways alternating with side roads every second year.

“This year, I drive up and down the highway and I keep looking at all this knapweed, Canada thistle, burdock, scentless chamomile … and it should have been their year for the highways, so I called the CRD.

“I found out they have a priority system, and I don’t know what these ‘priority weeds’ are, but as a rancher, I’d like to see knapweed treated…. I’m kind of ‘ticked’ that they are not; they are getting paid to do the job.”

Monical says she sprays invasive plants on her own ranch, but notes residents are not allowed to do the road allowances. She adds the CRD crew should spray everything invasive it finds.

“If they are making a pass, why can’t they spray all the weeds?

There are a limited number of days when you can spray … [why not do them all] so they have time for some other stuff, like side roads? It takes a lot of time to walk the highways.”

Meanwhile, CRD chair Al Richmond says the main problem is the limited budget MoTI provides, which isn’t enough with the rapid spread of noxious weeds that is happening now.

More and more seeds are coming in on trucks from the regional districts and provinces that don’t spray, through sales of garden ornamentals, and by local landowners who don’t deal with their own invasive weeds, he explains.

“It really needs to be a province-wide strategy … and people are going to have to deal with it [in yards] or we’re going to have more losses with respect to rangelands, etcetera.”

Richmond notes the CRD got only about half of the more than $300,000 it asked for to treat the highway rights-of-way in 2015.

“We received $157,000, and they wanted us to specifically treat gravel pits.”

There was a major hawkweed infestation at 106 Mile pit in 2009, and MoTI contractors were unknowingly spreading it along the highway.

Orange hawkweed is one of the 18 new invader species on its high priority weeds list that needs to be knocked down before it gets a foothold in South Cariboo soils – which is already the situation in Quesnel, Richmond explains.

“Once we deal with the number 1 priorities, then we will endeavour, if [budgeted] time permits, to go back and get the other ones that are bothering people, like the knapweed, which we know is a major concern.

“I won’t say they don’t knock down some of it when they go by, but they are not necessarily stopping at knapweed infested areas. They are dealing with these other nasties.”

Says Monical: “You want the job; you’d better step up to the plate and do it properly.”

However, Richmond says the board directors don’t really want the job of controlling roadside weeds anymore, since the budget and foreign seed problems are leading to dissatisfied residents and “bad PR” (public relations) tainting the CRD’s reputation.

While the property invasive plant program will continue as usual, the area directors’ recent discussions are now leaning toward giving up the roadside spraying program contract, and letting the ministry deal with it some other way.