Spotted knapweed - Black Press Media file photo

Spotted knapweed - Black Press Media file photo

CRD takes ranching operation to task on invasive knapweed

Knapweed is identified as a serious threat to rangelands and forests of the western U.S. and Canada

Cariboo Regional District (CRD) stakeholders voted unanimously to proceed with enforcement action if a Cariboo ranching company fails to address a spreading invasive knapweed infestation on its properties.

In a weighted vote of all electoral areas, the City of Williams Lake and the District of Wells during the CRD board meeting Friday, Nov. 13, officials decided to proceed with a court-ordered injunction against Blue Goose Cattle Co. if the company does not meet its request.

“It’s been a reoccurring 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. (BGCC), who was not at the CRD meeting, is a certified organic cattle ranching operation responsible for the management and stewardship of over 250,000 acres of leased and deeded land within the Central and South Cariboo, and Chilcotin regions of the CRD.

Sonntag said collaboration and communication between the CRD and the company has 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].”

Blue Goose Cattle Co. ranch manager Frank Schlueter, however, said contrary to the CRD’s report to the board Friday, the company has, in fact, been diligent and proactive dating back to 2015 and annually, thereafter, attempting to stop the knapweed spread. He added the knapweed spread is not simply a “Blue Goose issue.”

“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 noted in an emailed response.

“[At that time 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.”

READ MORE: Controlling knapweed one plant at a time

A document titled ‘Spotted Knapweed Management Plan: Infestation Mapping, Biocontrol Presence Survey, and Management Options for the Blue Goose Cattle Company 105 Mile Operations” shows approximately 17.02 hectares, or 42.55 acres, of spotted knapweed in 2015 on the company’s 111 and 105 Mile, Walker Valley and Soda Lake properties.

The plan recommended biological control, prevention activities, monitoring activities and mechanical control activities such as moving road and trail-sides, however, Sonntag said aside from some biological controls and monitoring, evidence of the implementation of all other recommended control methods has been non-existent, and actions taken by the IPM co-ordinator to meet with BGCC to discuss plans and strategies have been ignored.

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.”

According the CRD report, inspection completed on July 15, 2020 in response to a complaint received on July 10 showed spotted knapweed presence on 14 separate properties owned by BGCC.

Sonntag said the 14 properties encompass approximately 15,427 acres in the 108, 105 and 11 Mile areas of the South Cariboo.

She estimates, based on the 2015 study and a conservative rate of spread of the infestation at 14 per cent, annually, the 17.02 hectares originally reported in 2015 may be approximately 32.7 hectares of 81.93 acres on the properties surveyed in the management plan.

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.

The plant also reduces soil fertility and water infiltration into soil, while increasing surface water runoff and stream sedimentation. The CRD noted knapweed also reduces wildlife habitat and native biodiversity.

Following the board’s unanimous approval to proceed, the CRD will issue Blue Goose Cattle Co. a letter asking for voluntary compliance by the end of June of 2021 prior to plants setting seed and flowers. The letter would be issued this winter.

By the spring of 2021, properties will be inspected for evidence of compliance. Sonntag said if BGCC has failed to voluntarily comply the CRD will invite BGCC to a board meeting to justify why further enforcement actions are not warranted. Should the board decide further action is warranted, the CRD will proceed through a court-ordered injunction.

“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 ball parked 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.”



greg.sabatino@wltribune.com

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

CaribooFarming

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

City of Williams Lake considering using remainder of COVID Safe Restart Grant to make up for unpaid taxes. (City of Williams Lake photo)
Williams Lake weighs allocating rest of COVID safe restart grant in capital programs

The $546,205 lef of the $2.6 million could make up for $746,874 in outstanding taxes

Chief Joe Alphonse
OP-ED: Williams Lake municipal, regional councils lack awareness on historical trauma

Systemic racism isn’t always obvious to those that are not experiencing it

A nurse performs a test on a patient at a drive-in COVID-19 clinic in Montreal, on Wednesday, October 21, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Paul Chiasson
36 new cases of COVID-19, one death in Interior Health

The number of active cases in the region is at 366

The City of Williams Lake is asking for public feedback on whether it should explore the opportunity to host a Greater Metro Hockey League team in Williams Lake. (Angie Mindus photo - Williams Lake Tribune)
Williams Lake GMHL expansion questions, concerns, to be discussed later this month

If approved, the team would begin play in the fall of 2021

B.C. Health Minister Adrian Dix and provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry head for the B.C. legislature press theatre to give a daily update on the COVID-19 pandemic, April 6, 2020. (B.C. government)
B.C. nears 300,000 COVID-19 vaccinations, essential workers next

564 new cases, four deaths, no new outbreaks Thursday

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Walter Gretzky father of hockey hall-of-famer Wayne Gretzky waves to fans as the Buffalo Sabres play against the Toronto Maple Leafs during third period NHL hockey action in Toronto on Tuesday, Jan. 17, 2017. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
Walter Gretzky, father of the Great One, dies at 82

Canada’s hockey dad had battled Parkinson’s disease and other health issues

Kelowna General Hospital (File photo)
Second death reported in Kelowna General Hospital COVID-19 outbreak

A total of seven cases have been identified at the hospital: six patients and one staff

Municipal Affairs Minister Josie Osborne speaks in the B.C. legislature, March 4, 2021. (Hansard TV)
B.C. Liberals, NDP sing in harmony on local election reforms

Bill regulates paid canvassers, allows people in condo buildings

(National Emergency Management Agency)
No tsunami risk to B.C. from powerful New Zealand earthquake: officials

An 8.1 magnitude earthquake shook the north of New Zealand Thursday morning

(AP Photo/Richard Vogel, File)
Pandemic stress, isolation key factors as to why Canadians turned to cannabis, alcohol

Study found that isolation played key role in Canadians’ substance use

(File photo)
Kamloops Mountie bitten while arresting woman

The assault on March 1 is the latest in a string of incidents that have left local officers injured

Most Read