Ranchers bring concerns to RDEK

Invasive weeds starting to impact the agricultural industry; groups want to see enforcement on private lands.

Representatives from the agricultural industry brought their concerns over invasive weeds to the RDEK and asked for the enforcement of a bylaw that would allow local government to clear noxious weeds on private property.

Harlan Bradford, the president of the Kootenay Livestock Association and Morgan Dilts, the president of the Waldo Stockbreeders, voiced their concerns that invasive weeds are being spread from private properties and that the RDEK needs to step up enforcement.

While there are programs for fighting invasive weeds on crown land, the two pushed for the enforcement of Bylaw No. 1617 passed in 2002, which gives the RDEK the power to hire crews to clear noxious weeds on private property and charge the homeowner.

“We’re asking for the RDEK to become more engaged in the enforcement of Bylaw 1617,” said Dilts. “We have come up with a bit of an obstacle in the agricultural industry in that invasive weeds are starting to be a very significant problem.

“…We’re starting to see losses in the agricultural industry because of invasive weeds.”

In their presentation to the board, Dilts mentioned that invasive weeds have impacted the carrying capacity of regional crown rangeland by 25 per cent over the last 10 years.

“How many businesses can handle a 25 per cent loss?” asked Dilts. “And that is, by all indicators, is going to continue into the future of reductions and more reductions.”

That impact on the carrying capacity of the rangeland isn’t just a reduction in the grazing land for cattle, but also for wildlife ungulates, such as deer and elk, Dilts clarified.

He gave an example of how seeds at a logging yard on a private company property can be transported on vehicles and equipment throughout the region as part of logging operations.

“A lot of money is invested each year to controlling these noxious weeds, but it is somewhat futile if you treat outside of a place, but the origin of the seed is not taken care of. It’s not very cost-effective,” Dilts said.

RDEK board chair Rob Gay said the board has provided funding to noxious weeds through an agricultural plan, but sympathized with the ranchers’ frustrations.

“That’s what they’re asking us to do, is to take charge on some of these lands where the owners are not participating in dealing with the noxious weeds,” Gay said.

“…To my knowledge we haven’t used our ability to enforce. We’ve chosen to take the education route, first feeling that we should educate people. And we feel we’re doing a good job there, but what the livestock associations are telling us is don’t stop the education, but you need to start doing some enforcement and I feel they’re right.”