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Prevention working to keep invasive species out of Shuswap waters

Invasive species society stresses non-native plants can contribute to wildfire risk
No invasive mussels were found in a recent Columbia Shuswap Invasive Species Society study of 739 water samples from 13 bodies of water. (Black Press file photo)

To celebrate its 10th anniversary, the Columbia Shuswap Invasive Species Society shared its successes with Sicamous council.

At the Sept. 13 committee of the whole meeting, Robyn Hooper of the invasive species society (CSISS) spoke about the organization’s many education and prevention-based programs.CSISS also works with other provincial programs from other regions with “a great communication system between all the different provinces and the states,” said Hooper.

CSISS operates in Golden, Revelstoke, the South Shuswap, Falkland, Salmon Valley, Ranchero, Sicamous, Malakwa, the North Shuswap and Seymour Arm. It operates Plantwise, a program ensuring the horticulture industry doesn’t sell or bring in any invasive plants; Don’t Let It Loose, which discourages release of aquarium and terrarium non-native species into the wild, Play, Clean, Go, educating about best practices for outdoor recreation; and the well-known Clean, Drain, Dry boat cleaning initiative to prevent invasive species being transported between bodies of water.

A newer program, Buy Local Burn Local, protects local forests by working to prevent the accidental spread of invasive pests and diseases that can damage tress, often occurring when firewood is brought in from other regions by campers who don’t recognize the risks, said Hooper.

In Sicamous specifically, the Clean, Drain, Dry program has been of utmost importance. CSISS has reached out to marinas, boaters’ associations, houseboat companies and individual boaters on ramps, said Hooper, and nearly 50 signs have been installed. Billboard-style signs will soon be coming into the region, she added.

No invasive mussels have been reported from studies of 739 water samples from 13 bodies of water, reported Hooper. They aren’t in Albertan samples or ones from Washington, and any nearby that do have the invasion have strict decontamination processes in place, she assured.

Mayor Colleen Anderson added she knew of a boat coming from Winnipeg that went through the Clean, Drain, Dry protocol, needing to be quarantined for 30 days before it was allowed in B.C. waters.

A new report states it will cost up to $63 billion to deal with invasive species damage worldwide, Hooper shared, adding prevention is the cheapest strategy. Councillors asked if a specific report has been done detailing what the exact ramifications will be, or have been, to economies that rely on tourism if they’ve been affected by invasive species like zebra and quagga mussels.

“If it hasn’t been done, then that’s what we need to do,” stressed Coun. Pam Beech.

Invasive species prevention ties into community safety as well, stressed Hooper. Species like scotch broom are highly flammable and contain a somewhat toxic oil, she said, which don’t naturally exist in the area and can contribute to more wildfire risks.

“That’s not what you want to have introduced in this region,” she warned.

In the last 10 years, CSISS has interacted with over 25,000 people, been to 810 events and hosted 73 workshops. Fifty-one youth education sessions have been held and over 14,000 educational materials have been delivered, Hooper said.

The society’s annual general meeting will be held Oct. 17 in Sicamous.

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Rebecca Willson

About the Author: Rebecca Willson

I took my first step into the journalism industry in November 2022 when I moved to Salmon Arm to work for the Observer and Eagle Valley News. I graduated with a journalism degree in December 2021 from MacEwan University in Edmonton.
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