British Columbia

Red Cross funds removal of invasive plants and weeds in wildfire-affected area

It's been over a year since the Elephant Hill fire scorched nearly 200,000 hectares of land near Ashcroft, B.C. The Thompson Nicola Regional District recently received $1 million in funding from the Red Cross as part of a three-year project to deal with the spread of invasive plants and weeds in the aftermath of the fire.

'This funding allows us to be proactive and search for where we can do prevention or treatment work'

Charred trees, burned up during the Elephant Hill Wildfire in 2017. (Joanne Hammond)

It's been over a year since the Elephant Hill fire scorched nearly 200,000 hectares of land near Ashcroft, B.C.

The Thompson Nicola Regional District recently received $1 million in funding from the Red Cross as part of a three-year project to deal with the spread of invasive plants and weeds in the aftermath of the fire.

The fire began in July 2017 and was contained in fall 2017. The district applied for funding in spring 2018.

"This funding allows us to be proactive, go knock on doors and search for where we can do either prevention or treatment work," said Jamie Vieira, the district's manager of environmental services on CBC's Radio West.

Damages

Vieira says invasive plants—like hoary alyssum and spotted knapweeds—have been a problem in the B.C. agriculture industry for decades. They typically spread along highways and railways.

Vieira says most weed seeds are already present in areas like ranches. Hot fires wipe out native vegetation, and the weeds take over.

"To the ranchers, the native plant community is their livelihood. It's the grass that their cattle graze to survive. Cows don't eat weeds. It's a major concern for ranchers."

Spotted knapweed is a prohibited noxious weed that aggressively colonizes pastureland. (Alberta Invasive Species Council )

Weeds can also erode soil, affecting bank stability, according to Vieria. He says this can have a major impact on flooding.  

The Red Cross money will fund prevention work like seeding, herbicide treatment and mechanical treatment to remove invasive plants, says Vieira. This will allow grass to grow again in fire-effected areas.

The district's upcoming invasive plants treatment and prevention program will begin once a recovery manager is hired in February 2019.

Vieira says the district does not know the precise locations that were most affected by invasive species, so the program will rely heavily on community input. The program will begin public consultation outreach in March 2019.

In addition to private land, the Red Cross funding can be used on roadways and highway corridors. Vieira says the district hopes to launch on-the-ground treatment in summer 2019. 

"We think we're going to get a lot of work done."

Listen to the full story here:

With files from Radio West

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