B.C. COVID-19 recovery funds tagged to hire 200 in battle against invasive species

Knotweed, “murder hornets” and goldfish beware: B.C. is cracking down on invasive species.

The Invasive Species Council of B.C. is using a COVID-19 grant to hire 200 people over the next year to identify, manage and report flora and fauna that don’t belong in the province.

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Invasive species often have no natural predators, and can outcompete indigenous species for scarce food resources, council executive director Gail Wallin said told Global News.

They often get into the environment through human action, such as releasing unwanted pets, or planting non-native plants.

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“We can stop people from planting invasive plants, we can stop them from releasing their pets into the pond,” she said.

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“We can give them the right tools so they take responsible actions.”

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Stopping the spread of invasive species often requires early and decisive action — and eyes on the ground.

Officials were able to capture an invasive snakehead fish from Burnaby Lake before it could reproduce, thanks to someone reporting it.

Similarly, the first Asian giant hornet colony in B.C. was destroyed thanks to perceptive beekeepers.

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To that end, some of the new positions will involve outreach and education to help create a network of citizens watching for plants and animals that don’t belong.

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“We need trained eyes across the province, we need all of you watching in your back yards, in your local parks, when you’re out there biking,” she said.

“If you see something strange and out of place, report it.”

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The hiring will be made possible with an $8 million grant from the province, through the StrongerBC COVID-19 economic recovery plan.

The positions will last between three months and a year, helping workers in struggling industries like the tourism sector make ends meet as the pandemic drags on.

But while the jobs may be short-term, Wallin said the hope is the knowledge that’s transferred will last a lifetime, helping people in all parts of the province stay on guard for invasive species.

© 2021 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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