Editor’s note: This article was updated on June 5th with additional information regarding milkweed’s status under the Noxious Weeds Act and proposed biosecurity measures.
The Manitoba government has proposed changes to its Noxious Weeds Act intended to make the legislation more flexible and responsive.
First proclaimed in 1871, the act requires landowners and occupants prevent the growth, ripening and spread of weeds and weed seeds. Municipal weed inspectors are responsible for enforcement.
“These changes would make it easier for the province to take quick action and deal with potential threats to agricultural and natural lands,” said Agriculture Minister Ron Kostyshyn in the announcement on Tuesday.
The amendments include four major changes:
- a tiered approach for noxious weed classification that would allow flexibility in regional weed control programs and a simpler way to add or remove weeds from the provincial list;
- the ability to designate new invasive weeds for a period of one year, that would allow timely response to new weeds found in the province;
- adjusting provisions that would allow municipalities to recoup expenses from controlling noxious weeds on non-municipal land so they could be more easily adjusted to reflect actual costs; and
- a new, intermediary enforcement tool that would help ensure municipal governments take the necessary steps to deal with a noxious weeds, as required in the proposed legislation.
There are currently over 100 weeds categorized as noxious in Manitoba, including leafy spurge, thistles, ragweed, quackgrass and milkweed. If the proposed amendments are implemented, the minister indicated there would be changes made to the list of regulated weeds and each one would be designated into one of three tiers based on prevalence, distribution and invasiveness. It won’t be known how each species will be classified until the new regulations are drafted.
There have been some questions about the status of milkweed on the regulated list, as there are efforts underway across North America grow milkweed populations to restore critical monarch butterfly habitat. It is unpalatable for livestock and still deemed noxious under the current legislation. However, it’s worth noting that milkweed was categorized as a tier 3 noxious weed in a 2012 consultation document on the province’s proposed amendments. Tier 3 weeds would require control only if there’s an economic or environmental impact from them not being controlled — the approach many RMs have already taken under the existing legislation.
Currently, in cases where municipalities fail to enforce the weeds act, the provincial government assumes responsibility for weed control and charges the costs back to the municipality. The proposed amendments would allow the province “to issue a lower-cost fine to a municipal government for less serious issues.”
“Controlling the spread of noxious weeds is an area of shared concern for municipalities and the province,” said Doug Dobrowolski, president of the Association of Manitoba Municipalities. “AMM supports amendments to the act that would enhance co-ordination and allow municipalities to recoup some of the costs of controlling noxious weeds.”
The president of the Manitoba Canola Growers Association also welcomed the proposed changes, including a biosecurity-related amendment that would expand the requirement to clean noxious weeds from farm machinery to all machinery. This would include construction and ditching equipment.
“The flexibility and adaptability built into the proposed changes to the act are very positive,” said MCGA’s Ed Rempel. “In particular, new emphasis on biosecurity is both timely and necessary.”
The cosmetic or “non-essential” pesticide ban which came into effect in Manitoba on May 1st does not apply when controlling noxious weeds, as long as the pesticide is applied by, or under the authority of, a municipal weed inspector or supervisor.
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