Letter: Government foot-dragging best ally of invasive species

In advance of the October federal election, contact your local MPs and let them know that urgent action is required.

To the editor:

Re: Federal inaction on invasive mussels

I am alarmed at the foot dragging over the issue of zebra and quagga mussels entering the Okanagan and other B.C. interior watersheds. The threat is imminent and the damaging impacts are well known. These mussels multiply rapidly and there is no known way of getting rid of them. They contaminate beaches, sandy bottoms and infrastructure such as storm drains and intake pipes. They have steadily advanced westward from the Great Lakes, especially in the US.

Our federal government has clear authority and responsibility to stop this invasion at US points of entry. Yet they have ignored the problem for years and only became involved when local authorities such as the Okanagan Basin Water Board screamed loudly and persistently.

The current federal plan is to slowly engage and train Canadian Border Service Agency personnel to actually inspect boats as they enter Canada. This might happen by mid-summer but don’t hold your breath. CBSA, like most other federal agencies, is in cut back mode. This invariably means reductions in front line staff. Without adequate numbers of inspectors how can they carry out these necessary inspections?

In my professional career I worked to combat invasions of non-indigenous pest. From that I recognize that immediate comprehensive actions are needed when dealing with invasives. Once established, the cost to get rid of them is astronomically higher than preventing the invasion in the first place. Without costly remedial action there will be costly damage to the tourism industry, infrastructure and the environment.

Prevention by interception requires the full engagement of our federal government. They must take the lead and push our provincial government to participate in accordance with their responsibilities. By not taking the lead they, in effect, let others off the hook.

What can you do? Get informed and get involved at http://www.protectourfreshwater.ca/. In advance of the October federal election, contact your local MPs and let them know that urgent action is required. Foot-dragging is not acceptable. Contact the candidates for the other parties and find out what they will do. Then consider who you will vote for in October.

Steve Burke, West Kelowna