Rural directors opted to walk softly but carry a bylaw stick after debating a plan to enforce weed control on private property at a meeting Thursday, Sept. 18.
The directors from electoral areas meet from time to time separate from the full board to deal with issues of interest specifically to them.
A report from staff said invasive plants continue to be a major challenge for farmers and ranchers, and Jamie Vieira, the TNRD’s manager of environmental services, told them complaints have increased.
“These complaints have always been there but for whatever reason there’s been an increase,” he said.
The B.C. Weed Control Act gives regional districts the power to enact bylaws requiring that property owners eradicate noxious weeds. Vieira said care would have to be taken that such a bylaw isn’t used by vindictive neighbours, and policy would need to be developed on whether it would apply to all noxious weeds or invader species only.
He estimated that the equivalent of a half-time employee would be needed to administer the bylaw, which would be paid for by increasing the requisition from electoral areas or reducing funding to current programs.
Some directors didn’t like the idea of enforcing a bylaw against property owners, especially since they’re often affected by the spread of weeds from their neighbours or from highway rights-of-way.
But others felt enforcement was needed in extreme situations where a property owner refuses to control weeds, and they spread to neighbouring properties.
The TNRD already has a program to help farmers and ranchers with weed control but it isn’t mandatory. After much discussion, the directors came to a consensus that a bylaw would be useful as long as it was used only in extreme circumstances, and should be reviewed from time to time.
“We’re not going to hire weed cops,” TNRD CAO Sukh Gill assured them.
They decided to recommend to the board that staff develop a bylaw for consideration.