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Broombuster activity set to resume in qathet region; fire chief targets invasive plant

Plants are getting ready to come into bloom, which is the ideal time for cutting

qathet region’s broombusters are gearing up for another season to thin out and eventually eradicate Scotch broom.

According to Powell River Fire Rescue chief Terry Peters, who coordinates broombusters in the region, the first group cut will be on May 14 with a return to the Penticton trails areas between 11 am and 1 pm, to make sure any new growth from the “awesome job” done last year is eradicated. Peters said there will be prizes and snacks for those who attend.

“This is a perfect opportunity to spread the word and bring your family and friends to learn about invasive species, fire smart initiatives in the community, and of course, be part of the solution to stop the spread of Scotch broom,” added Peters.

He said the first group cut will be at the Manson Avenue extension, which can be accessed from Toba Street. Those attending are urged to follow signs past the gate.

“In the meantime, right now is the optimal time for all of us to cover our tracks from previous cuts as we are just starting to see the yellow flowers forming,” said Peters. “Remember, you can pull small plants all year round but it is most important to return to previous cuts so our gains will not be lost with a few plants seeding the area. We are now halfway from our 10-year goal and the momentum is building thanks to all of you, with far less yellow being visible every spring.”

Peters said the effort to control broom usually starts up the first week of May. He said the active cutting season typically lasts a couple of months because the best time to cut Scotch broom is when it is covered in bright yellow blossoms.

“They are just starting to form now,” said Peters. “Our big motto is you ‘cut broom in bloom’. That is when the energy of the plant is at its greatest. Most of the energy is actually in the flower. You cut it low, right at ground level, and it traditionally doesn’t come back.”

Peters said the Manson extension, where the first cut is happening, had a thick growth of broom last year.

“It was massive there,” he added. “We have people in that neighbourhood who have actually been cutting again this year. It’s just a fraction of what it was last year.

“We’ve been at it five years and we’re into our sixth year with broombusters. We’re part of, which is all down Vancouver Island, based out of Qualicum Beach, where they have been cutting broom for years. It’s now considered broom-free.

“It doesn’t take much to find out where people are doing nothing. Just drive our peninsula or down the Vancouver Island highway and you can tell the communities that have been doing something with it.”

Raising awareness

Peters said last year some big strides were made in trying to eradicate broom in the qathet region.

“The big goal here is to bring invasive species awareness to the public,” said Peters. “Invasive species are the second largest loss for diversity on our planet, with the exception of land development. Broom is just one of the many.

“One reason I am involved with it is because it’s an oily plant and its fire content is like little matchsticks in the forest, when the plant kind of dies off. It’s always what I’ve considered a flash fuel. It throws its embers and catches other things on fire. We’ve learned that from down in California and over in Australia and New Zealand and Brazil, where these plants have taken off.”

Peters said broom does not grow in the forest, but around the edges where there is sunshine.

“It puts a ring of fire around our forests,” added Peters. “For fire mitigation and prevention, it’s a big deal.”

Peters said a mature Scotch broom plant can have 18,000 seeds and Scotch broom is highly spreadable.

“It’s not a native species and there’s no benefit to having it,” said Peters.

People interested in becoming broombusters can go to the website and under communities, go to Powell River. There is information about this year’s cut and contact information.