Cut broom in bloom, those in the know preach, and now some on the coast are pushing harder for government action to deal with the invasive plant.
The Association of Vancouver Island and Coastal Communities passed a resolution in April calling on the B.C. government to take “actionable steps” to control the spread of introduced Scotch broom across the province as well as encouraging local governments to address it through bylaws and policies.
The fast-spreading member of the pea family has run rampant across the region, via cleared and open land, often inhibiting forests regrowth and interfering with agricultural production and native species survival, the resolution says.
Sponsored by the Town of Qualicum Beach, the resolution came about through advocacy from Joanne Sales, the executive director of Broom Busters, which has chapters of volunteers tackling the highly flammable woody shrub on Vancouver Island and the Lower Mainland.
Some municipalities have passed bylaws regulating the removal of broom on private properties; other actions like not allowing land clearing on developments until permit applications are approved could prevent broom from further establishing in open spaces, Sales said.
The resolution “was purposely vague because there was a lot of misinformation about, well we can’t absolutely get rid of it, so we can’t pass a bylaw. That’s not true. You pass a bylaw and then start the process of controlling it; you can’t just let it take over.”
The province classifies broom as a weed of concern; upgrading it to a noxious weed, so it’s regulated under B.C.’s Weed Control Act, would help, Sales said.
Thanks to years of coordinated efforts to rein in broom on Gabriola, volunteers active in the work say the problem is diminishing.
“There are not many large plants left on public land,” Lou Skinner, a member of Gabriola Land and Trails Trust’s invasives committee, said. “The problem is it’s going to be here for my lifetime.” Seeds of Scotch broom can survive for 30 years. That’s why the committee coordinates broom-busting parties annually.
In 2022, 62 volunteers dedicated 158 hours to removing broom around the island, from provincial and community parks, to roadsides. This year, at Drumbeg Provincial Park, where GaLTT works in partnership with BC Parks on native plant restoration, volunteers have logged 112.5 hours on removal already.
While Skinner and Alison Thomas, GaLTT’s invasives committee chair, note the hard work is paying off – long dormant native camas lilies, spring gold and Garry oaks are re-emerging at Drumbeg, they want to see more support from local government to address broom on private lands, such as enforced bylaws.
Currently, “there’s nothing with teeth that obliges people to deal with it,” Thomas said. Listing invasives like broom as a noxious weed is one thing, but “if any level of government wants us to take this seriously, we’ve got to know there are consequences for making it happen.”
Safe disposal of invasive plant material should be easier, the volunteers said, with green carts generally too small to handle larger volumes. The Regional District of Nanaimo charges a tipping fee at the landfill for drop-off of yard waste, including invasive plants. Tipping fees for the majority of community cleanups are waived under the regional district’s zero waste program.
While GaLLT has collaborated with the Gabriola Fire Department on free drop-off days at the fire hall in the past, made possible by a grant in partnership with the RDN, having a consistent annual day or days would “make it easy for motivated people to do the right thing,” Thomas said, and help avoid potential unintended consequences like piles of chopped broom on private land igniting.
GaLTT has broom busting parties scheduled in May and June to coincide with the plant’s blooming period, the best time to cut it down. The full schedule is available at www.galtt.ca.
By Rachelle Stein-Wotten, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter
Original Published on May 20, 2023 at 09:01