Monday, April 18, 2016

AISC holds second annual Invasive Species Workshop

Weed identification with Nicole Kimmel of Alberta Agriculture and Forestry
Josh Davis

On April 15, 2016, the Alberta Invasive Species Council (AISC) held their second annual SW Invasive Species Workshop at the Heritage Inn in Pincher Creek. The workshop was presented by the Alberta Invasive Species Council in conjunction with a number of local Municipalities, the Government of Alberta, Parks Canada, and the Association of Alberta Agricultural Fieldmen. The theme this year was Early Detection and Rapid Response. The idea is that if noxious foreign invasive species are detected early they can be contained or eliminated before the problem grows out of control.

A new provincial Weed Control Act was proclaimed in 2010, changing the classifications from restricted, noxious, and nuisance weeds into prohibited noxious and noxious weeds. Plants designated as a prohibited noxious weed are not currently found in Alberta, or are found in few locations, making eradication possible. Under the Weed Control Act a person has a responsibility to destroy a prohibited noxious weed. The designation of noxious weed, on the other hand, can be seen as regulatory support for containment, since they are too widespread to eradicate.

“One of the biggest things about holding this workshop is that invasive species just flies under the radar, and invasive species programs tend to be underfunded, and under-resourced,” said Alberta Agriculture and Forestry Acting Forest Health Officer Megan Evans. “We just want to raise awareness. These invasive species are a real threat to our economy and our environment, and we know that’s true. So raising awareness is step one in tackling the problems.” Evans explained that the council is dealing with invasive plants, which are legislated under the weed control act, and aquatic invasive species such as zebra mussels.

“The focus of the conversations today is early detection and rapid response. It’s the single most effective way to manage invasive species. It’s best to get them really early.” Evans said that detecting species early can also be a money saver. “It can be as simple as picking up the phone and telling somebody that you saw a plant that could be problematic.”

“The Alberta Invasive Species Council is a not-for-profit, formed in 2006,” said AISC Executive Director Barry Gibbs. “We try to raise awareness, particularly around the prevention of invasive species. Our vision is prevention inspired, Alberta protected. So we are very interested in the whole early detection and rapid response system. We are just now introducing a program to engage citizen scientists to spot and record invasive plants on an iPhone.” Gibbs said invasive species has always been an interest for him. “Most people just don’t see the issue with plants. Plants are the pretty flowers out there. But I’ve always been interested in plants, so I know which ones are the good ones and which are the bad ones.” He said that of particular concern to the AISC right now are zebra mussels and flowering rush. “We have twelve locations in Alberta where there’s flowering rush. They’re not very big infestations, but we’re trying to find out how to get rid of them, and it’s very difficult to do that.

Kelly Cooley
“This particular workshop is the brainchild of various managers of invasive species in various municipal, provincial, and federal governments which have legislative responsibility to control weeds,” said Kelly Cooley. “A couple years back these managers got together and said that we need to do some outreach beyond our jurisdictional boundaries and spheres of influence.” Cooley explained that this is the second of four workshops the Southwest Invasive Managers (SWIM) will put on every spring.

Nicole Kimmel

Following lunch Nicole Kimmel of Alberta Agriculture and Forestry gave a presentation on weed identification, showing the difference between invasive species within Alberta and on our border, and teaching the audience how to identify them. She followed her presentation with Weed Jeopardy, leading the tables in a fun game where they recognized Albertan invasive species.

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