Ontario Parks & Invasive Species

April 2016

FOCA reached out to Ontario Parks to ask:

What actions has Ontario Parks taken/will be taking to post signs at boat launches, discourage the transport of firewood, and otherwise to support the efforts to reduce the transport and spread of invasive species in Ontario?

Ontario Parks Answered:

April 1st, 2016

From: Ontario Parks, Manager Operations & Development

Dear Mr. Rees,

Ontario Parks has been managing invasive species in provincial parks for several decades through a variety of approaches. These include:

Education: Ontario Parks promotes invasive species awareness through its natural heritage education program which includes naturalist-led programs, publications such as park tabloids and children’s activity books, through educational signage (including at most boat launches in provincial parks), and through social media. This approach educates hundreds of thousands of park visitors per year about the threats of invasive species. Additionally the Learn to Camp program has “Look before you leave” messaging in cooperation with the Ontario Invasive Plant Council (OIPC) and some of the OIPC educational materials are distributed through this program, e.g. children’s activity book, look before you leave postcards.

Partnerships: Ontario Parks regularly collaborates with other government and non-government agencies to promote best practices, information sharing and education. For example, Ontario Parks has partnered with the Ontario Invading Plant Council to produce educational signage and promote early detection of invasive species through the invading species hotline. Ontario Parks has also partnered with the Ontario Federation of Anglers and Hunters (OFAH) Invading Species Awareness program to promote awareness, prevention and early detection of invasive species. Some parks have also hosted student positions from OFAH’s invasive species hit squad. A partnership with OFAH installed Asian Carp educational signs at water access points in many parks.

Prevention: Ontario Parks employs a number of best management practices that reduce the risk of invasive species movement. For example, Ontario Parks has been promoting use of OIPC’s Clean Equipment Protocol by park staff and contractors. This protocol requires that operators of machinery wash their equipment prior to use within a park to minimize the spread of invasive seeds. Some parks have prohibitions on the use of live baitfish (a vector of invasive fish species and disease) and others have mobile boat-washing stations that are used to clean boats prior to entering park waterbodies. Some parks also have boot brush stations to reduce the movement of invasive species by hikers. Campers visiting a park from an area under a firewood quarantine are asked not to bring any firewood from home. Also the new Invasive Species Act has a provision that prohibits bringing “a member of a restricted invasive species into a provincial park or conservation reserve or cause it to be brought into a provincial park or conservation reserve”.

Research, monitoring and management: Park staff survey for invasive species, and actively manage high-risk species where needed. This can include removing invasive plants, using herbicides, prescribed fire, and other tactics. Efforts to remove water chestnut in the Ottawa River at Voyageur Provincial Park were recognized by the Environmental Commissioner of Ontario (ECO) with the awarding of the ECO Recognition Award in 2014. Ontario Parks promotes citizen science monitoring of invasive species through the use of an Early Detection app http://www.eddmaps.org/ontario/ Some zones are actively training staff in invasive species awareness and management and many staff have been licenced as a pesticide applicator.

If you have any questions or require any further information please contact Brad Steinberg, Natural Heritage Education and Learning Coordinator 705-755-1715 or brad.steinberg@ontario.ca

Sincerely..

Deanna PanitzOntario Parks & Invasive Species