Barry’s Report: At the AGM of the Ontario Invasive Plants Council 2012

by Barry Cottam, Chair, FWG Management Committee 

About 120 people registered for OIPC’s 6th annual meeting in Guelph on 16-17 October 2012.  Day one consisted of four plenary sessions with three or four speakers in each. Brendon Lawson was the keynote speaker. He is the author of the recently published Metaphors for Environmental Sustainability: Redefining our Relationship with Nature. The full program is available on the OIPC website — www.ontarioinvasiveplants.ca/index.php/agm2012 — and presentations will be added in the near future.

Topics on the agenda included: buckthorn busters; judicious use of herbicides on a regular, scheduled basis; importance of understanding plant biology before attempting control; importance of understanding the land one is managing (i.e., need for mapping, inventories, soil studies, etc.); predictions of the arrival of new invasives. The results of recent and ongoing scientific studies were also presented. For example, Richard Dickinson talked about the spread of Dog-strangling Vine and biocontrol (the FWG is one of his sample sites). Presentations on the legislative framework for invasive species and the use of social media by non-profits were also particularly relevant to the FWG.

On the morning of the second day, optional tours included one to the Centre for DNA Barcoding, which I visited. Lynn Ovenden (the only other Ottawan there) and I also walked around the Guelph Arboretum, which includes demonstration backyard gardens (the Gosling Wildlife Gardens).

The wildlife gardens at the Arboretum are similar to ours in some ways and different in others. The basic goals are the same: encourage the use of native plants and the creation of wildlife habitat. Variations include the use of stands so viewers can imagine they are looking out their windows into their yards. One garden consists of a lawn with a lone pine and some kids’ toys, illustrating the unfortunate and inadequate norm. Another was created to attract butterflies, moths and hummingbirds.

A view of part of the demonstration back yard at the Gosling Wildlife Gardens.

Signage includes photographs of potential visitors — mammals and birds — with text presented as though these creatures were letting us know why the gardens are important to them. Mammals included cats and humans! Signage was simple: two 4×4 posts set into the ground with 2×4 cross pieces and Plexiglas-covered sign boards attached.

The sign where ‘wild’ visitors discuss their favourite menu items found in the back yard ‘bistro’.

This meeting was an opportunity to network with people of diverse backgrounds and experiences. Questions were raised, new ideas discovered, old approaches evaluated. Perhaps most important for me was learning more about managing land affected by invasive species. For example, an employee of the Bruce Trail Association provided some helpful pointers in this regard. The BTA has over 220 properties, each of which must be inventoried. They use a layered approach, delineating boundaries with GPS, showing key physical features on a map, then noting the main biotic communities. Layers can be added, down to locations of individual species. Such inventories are considered to be an essential preliminary step to any land management activity.

Barry Cottam has been a volunteer at the FWG for just over two years. He started and leads the Tuesday Invasive Species Group, which works to keep our worst invasives at bay. He recently became chair of the FWG management committee and is interested in establishing long-term plans for the FWG habitats.

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