Sea to Sky Invasive Species Council responds to concerns over spraying near community garden 

Organization uses herbicide that's 'super low in toxicity' in a highly controlled manner: executive director

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The Sea to Sky Invasive Species Council (SSISC) is seeking to allay any concerns about the spraying it completed in the Cheakamus Crossing neighborhood last week.

The organization treated an invasive species called spotted knapweed in Bayly Park on Tuesday, Aug. 20, leading to concerns from some local residents and gardeners. The Cheakamus Community Garden

is located near the site that was sprayed.

According to Clare Greenberg, executive director of the SSISC, the herbicide used, called Milestone, is one of the safest herbicides available.

"It's been approved by Health Canada and it's gone through a rigorous process to go through that approval process," said Greenberg.

"It's super low in toxicity. To put it in perspective, its toxicity is lower than that of table salt."

Greenberg added that SSISC workers take precautions to ensure that herbicides are carefully applied.

Workers don't spray in windy conditions and calibrate spray equipment to minimize impact to surrounding areas, she explained.

"We use very little herbicide, and we use it in a judicial, careful way," said Greenberg.

"We only use it when other methods of control are ineffective or not feasible for some reason."

The Association of Whistler Area Residents for the Environment (AWARE), which runs the community garden, has come to the defense of the SSISC, sending out an email to members expressing confidence in the SSISC's work.

"We are not privy to management decisions made relating to overall park management, but are satisfied consideration was given by SSISC for distance of the treated area from the gardens, treatment method used (spot spraying), and wind speed at time of treatment to ensure there were no risk factors that would impact the gardens," it reads.

Greenberg added that the SSISC rarely uses herbicides, with 95 per cent of its invasive species control in 2018 done manually within the Resort Municipality of Whistler boundary.

That said, the organization felt that it was necessary to attack the spotted knapweed through spraying this year.

"After years of hand-pulling spotted knapweed at some sites, including the Cheakamus site, we decided it would be prudent to provide a herbicide that would help control the seed bank," said Greenberg.

"Because once a seed bank is established it takes many, many years of hand pulling to control that site."

Whistler Mayor Jack Crompton said he is confident in the SSISC's decision-making.

"Invasives are a real threat to biodiversity," said Crompton. "I'm supportive of Sea to Sky Invasive Species' work in our community."

Crompton added that he encourages the public to get involved with the SSISC, which operates a program that allows the public or businesses to adopt a section of the Valley Trail and rid it of invasive species.

"I hope more people commit their time to help with the important work of the Sea to Sky Invasive Species Council," he said. "Programs like adopt-a-trail will be more effective with more hands."

In a follow up email, Greenberg said that the SSISC is currently discussing a volunteer program, in coordination with AWARE, that will focus on hand-pulling knapweed at Bayly Park. The program will likely be organized in coordination with Cheakamus Community Garden members and posted on the Cheakamus Crossing Facebook Group, she said.

To learn more about the adopt-a-trail program, check out www.ssisc.ca/adoptatrail.

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