TNRD gets $1 million to fight post-wildfire invasive plants

Hound’s-tongue, hoary alyssum and spotted knapweed were in the Elephant Hill area prior to the fire, which started on July 6, 2017, and peaked at 192,000 hectares in size before it was contained in the fall

More than a year later, the Thompson Nicola Regional is still cleaning up from the Elephant Hill wildfire — and it will continue to do so for the next three years.

The Thompson-Nicola Regional District has received $1 million from the Red Cross to help treat and prevent the spread of invasive plants following the hugely destructive 2017 interface wildfire.

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“With fires, as well as in the action of fighting fires, there’s a lot of disturbance that happens on the ground,” TNRD manager of environmental health Jamie Vieira said. “One of the big risks is the invasion of invasive weeds.”

Invasive plants are not native to an area and typically spread aggressively, with the potential for snuffing out native species upon which wildlife feed and causing other negative impacts on the environment.

Vieira said hound’s-tongue, hoary alyssum and spotted knapweed were in the Elephant Hill area prior to the fire, which started on July 6, 2017, and peaked at 192,000 hectares in size before it was contained in the fall.

The TNRD applied for funding from the Red Cross, which provides emergency assistance. The money will go toward a three-year invasive plants treatment and prevention program, which will begin after a recovery manager is hired in early 2019.

Private land owners will be helped by the money, which will also be used to treat highways and other routes.

Vieira said the TNRD has heard concerns primarily from the ranching sector. Once the program manager is in place, the TNRD will be reaching out to the public with more information and will hold community meetings. Asked if $1 million is enough to combat the weeds, Vieira said the financial request to the Red Cross was based on best estimates.

“We don’t know how much [invasive plants] is out there,” he said.

The Elephant Hill wildfire prompted mass evacuations, with many of the residents finding weeks-long refuge in Kamloops. The fire was determined to be human-caused and is being investigated by the RCMP, but no additional details have been released.

The blaze tore through about 120 homes in the Boston Flats trailer park, Loon Lake and Pressy Lake.

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