“If the act is opened up now, what will it look like in the end? There are a number of special interest groups out there that will insist upon having their issues addressed in the act.”
– JOHN JOHNSTON
Proposed changes to the Noxious Weeds Act, including hikes in special levies and notices to destroy, and slashing the declared list of noxious weeds in half, were discussed at the recent Manitoba Weed Supervisors Association annual general meeting.
“Is it the right time? What should we change? What will it look like? Should it just be some amendments or should it be a complete rewrite?” said John Johnston, president of the MWSA.
The MWSA would like to see special levies, which can be added to the tax bills of weed-infested properties by councillors upon the recommendations of their weed inspector prior to March 1 of each year, raised from the current maximum of $10 per acre to $25/acre.
“To go in with a glyphosate or other chemical application on land, it takes at least that amount ($25/acre) to do it,” he said. “At $10/acre, you pretty much have to apply for ministerial approval to exceed that.”
He added that it should also be made easier to adjust that rate higher in the future, in order to keep pace with rising chemical prices.
Notice to destroy orders, currently capped at $500 per quarter section, should be raised to $1,500 per acre, according to the MWSA.
“I know that doesn’t sound like a lot of money, but once you exceed that, you can ask for ministerial approval to go over the $1,500 limit,” said Johnston.
The association believes that the new cap would be enough for most small, subdivided pieces of land or most small areas on a quarter section.
For major infestations, weed supervisors can fax a form to the director of soils and crops in Carman, who will dispatch a farm production adviser from the local GO office to get a second opinion.
If the two sets of eyes agree, the director will then approve the request, completing a process that should take at most two days.
“It’s a very workable process, and it gives you the backing of the province, which is an issue out there,” he said.
Currently, the active list of noxious weeds in the province has 104 species listed. The MWSA is recommending that the list be pared in half, and a ranking system applied to those left on it.
He noted that since Alberta and Saskatchewan have already applied a three-tiered rat ing system, Mani toba would probably do likewise.
The tier-based system would have three levels: eradication, control, and limit spread. It would also recognize the importance of early detection and eradication of newly introduced invasive species, as well as the threat they pose to natural areas, not just agricultural lands.
“Eradication would include weeds not currently found in Manitoba, and would be part of an early detection and rapid response system,” he said, adding that this would include weeds such as yellow star thistle and salt cedar, and 15 to 20 other species that have not yet arrived but could pose a threat.
“Eradication means you have no options; they have to be eradicated,” he said.
Control, or tier two, would apply to weeds al ready present and spreading that need to be controlled on an ongoing basis such as leafy spurge, red bartsia, and scentless chamomile.
Tier three, or limit-the-spread designation, would cover weeds like dandelions, foxtail barley and Canada thistle, which are already commonplace in the province.
“You might find them growing in multiple areas where they are not causing a problem to anybody,” he said.
“But if you’ve got a neighbour with a tonne of foxtail barley in a pasture next to your crop, you’re going to have great concerns about that drifting in. So, this would address the need to go in and control those types of weeds without having to try to clean them off the landscape in pastures or native areas.”
POWER TO DESTROY
Since 1964, weed inspectors have had the power to destroy up to three acres of noxious weeds without notice, and undertake weed control on the properties of non-resident landowners with “very little” prior notice, he said.
Under the act, weed inspectors and supervisors have the right to inspect “every piece” of property, except for a dwelling, he added.
“If the act is opened up now, what will it look like in the end? There are a number of special interest groups out there that will insist upon having their issues addressed in the act,” said Johnston. “They can be very persuasive, and they know how to work issues when dealing with politicians.” [email protected]