Loss of invasive species council will ripple into Caledon, CVC

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With the sudden loss of funding announced by the Ford government that will impact nine programs that aid in combating invasive species, the Ontario Invasive Plant Council (OIPC) is scrambling to figure out how to keep the program operating.

The Ministry of Natural Resources (MNRF) announced that $100,000 in funding the council received last year will be reduced to zero. It received $150,000 in 2017, prior to the $100,000 in 2018.

“The OIPC is a very small organization of 2.5 people,” said executive director Belinda Junkin. “We have spent the past month scrambling to try to figure out budgeting and how to keep the organization operating with the sudden loss of funding.”

MNRF funding made up 50 per cent of OIPC’s operations.

“There was no advance warning of this cut and we were totally blindsided by this cut,” said Junkin. “The OIPC had been encouraged by the province to expand the organization over the past two years with the increase in transfer payments. As a result of this funding cut, the OIPC is at risk of being unable to continue to operate unless other funding is quickly found.”

The group is planning a public advocacy campaign, as Junkin said that they will basically have to fundraise in order to keep operating.

Freyja Whitten, senior co-ordinator of invasive species for Credit Valley Conservation, said in an industry that struggles for labour, resources and support, losing the resources they get from the OIPC — as well as an active partner in advocacy, outreach and education work — will definitely have an impact on the work they do in Caledon and beyond.

Whitten said that the groups sit on committees in tandem, including a horticultural outreach collaborative, and a communications committee from which they do their outreach and education work.

They partner together on social media campaigns, workshops, and the OIPC has online resources that are critical for CVC work, as well as many others.

As one example, Whitten said that the OIPC created technical bulletins a few years ago that outline best management practices for numerous invasive species in Ontario. They worked with organizations like the CVC and brought together a collaboration of experts in order to create them.

“We refer landowners to them, contractors, anyone who is concerned with managing an invasive species on their properties,” Whitten said. And it’s resources like this, Whitten said — which have been built up over the decades-long partnership with the OIPC — that will be in danger of being strained, or possibly lost.

“We enjoy the partnership, because there aren’t a lot of people in our industry,” said Whitten. “We manage a lot of property and do a lot of on the ground work. They increased our knowledge base, have brought things together, the collaboration would be lost, and it’s work we would have to organize and do ourselves.”

Furthermore, Whitten said, it’s an added challenge in challenging times for conservation work.

“We’re seeing a challenge, unfortunately, from increased disturbances we’re having with climate change,” Whitten said. “If we’re trying to build sustainable areas, invasive species is a big part of it.”

Junkin echoed the sentiments, saying that it’s a potential loss of thousands of hours of previous work.

“The greatest potential loss to the province is the loss of thousands and thousands and thousands of co-ordinated volunteer hours,” she said of the research the OIPC provides. “This co-ordinated effort is at risk if the network, centralized information and research is lost, if the OIPC is unable to continue to operate.”