The Manitoba government is overhauling one of the oldest laws on its books — the Noxious Weeds Act — to bring it into line with current weed threats in the province.
If passed, Bill 32, the Noxious Weeds Amendment Act, will put into statute much of what is already common practice — controlling weeds commiserate with their threat.
“The expectation (under the current legislation) is that all those weeds that are listed for regulation will be eradicated,” Jeanette Gauthier, MAFRD’s pesticide specialist said in an interview June 3. “The intent is good — to protect Manitoba farmland from noxious invasive weeds — but it’s really not feasible the way it’s written.”
Instead of treating all noxious weeds the same, the legislation proposes placing them in three tiers. Depending on the tier, weeds would be destroyed or controlled. The amendments, given first reading June 2, are backed by the Association of Manitoba Municipalities, Manitoba Weed Supervisors Association, the Keystone Agricultural Producers (KAP) and Manitoba Canola Growers Association (MCGA).
“There are some areas that will be a little more challenging but in general it will probably make the act a little more sense,” Kent Shewfelt, past president of the Manitoba Weed Supervisors Association, said in an interview. “It’s probably going to put what we’ve been doing for the last 30 years more in compliance with the act.”
The amendments fit in with promoting biosecurity, said MCGA president Ed Rempel.
The Noxious Weeds Act of 1871 is one of the first laws enacted by the Manitoba legislative assembly.
The current act lists more than 500 weeds that can be added to the noxious weed schedule. The current schedule names more than 100 weeds as noxious, and therefore technically, must be destroyed, which often is impractical.
The list starts with absinth and ends with yarrow. In between, there are ubiquitous weeds such as dandelion, quackgrass and cattail, which are in some circumstances more a nuisance than economic. But under the current law, they are to be treated the same as potentially more troublesome weeds such as knapweeds, leafy spurge and thistles.
Noxious weeds will be assigned to tiers through regulation. A proposed list of 79 weeds has been made, but is subject to revision.
Under the proposed amendments Tier 1 is where the most threatening weeds, including many not yet found in Manitoba, will be placed, Gauthier said. The goal is to destroy, and if possible, eradicate them before they get established.
Tier 1 is proposed to include orange hawkweed and yellow star thistle, neither of which are found in Manitoba.
Also proposed for Tier 1 are several knapweeds, some of which are in Manitoba, but in small areas.
Weeds in Tier 2 will be handled in different ways depending on size of the infestation. If the weed occupies less than five acres the legislation says they shall be destroyed; more than five acres shall be controlled.
“What we’re trying to do there is to allow the municipalities that have these weeds to continue controlling them and the municipalities that don’t, the government can be more heavy handed to try and prevent the spread into other municipalities,” Gauthier said.
Bartsia red, a troublesome weed in parts of the Interlake, is proposed for Tier 2, along with leafy spurge and nodding thistle.
Weeds in Tier 3 shall be con-trolled “if the weed’s uncontrolled growth or spread is likely to negatively affect an aspect of Manitoba’s economy or environment in the area of the land or the well-being of residents in proximity to the land.”
Examples include dandelion, kochia, most thistles and milkweed.
A number of common weeds found in annual crops such as wild oats, quackgrass and wild mustard are not included in any tier, even though they are currently on the noxious weed list.
As is the case now, under certain conditions municipalities can still order landowners to destroy or control noxious weeds and if they don’t, have it done and bill them.
The province has the same authority over municipalities. However, if the legislation passes, the Manitoba government can first fine a municipality.
Normally, new weeds are added to the noxious weeds list by a cabinet order. Under the proposed legislation the minister of agriculture can add a weed to Tier 1 for one year.
“It’s a timeliness thing,” Gauthier said. “You don’t want something showing up and not be able to do anything about it because it’s not listed in the regulations.”
Controlling noxious weeds is exempt from the Non-Essential Pesticide Use regulation, which came into effect May 1, if the pesticide is applied by, or under the authority of a municipal weed inspector or supervisor, the government release said.