Yellow starthistle is one of the invasive species now found in the Okanagan and Similkameen Valleys. Okanagan and Similkameen Invasive Species Society has been addressing ways to manage invasive plants and animals. The society began in 1996. (Contributed)

Yellow starthistle is one of the invasive species now found in the Okanagan and Similkameen Valleys. Okanagan and Similkameen Invasive Species Society has been addressing ways to manage invasive plants and animals. The society began in 1996. (Contributed)

Society focuses on invasive plants and animals in Okanagan and Similkameen region

Okanagan and Similkameen Invasive Species Society was formed in 1996

For the past 25 years, the Okanagan and Similkameen Invasive Species Society has been addressing problems posed by species such as the zebra mussel, yellow starthistle, Asian giant hornet and others.

These are all invasive species that do not occur naturally in the Okanagan and Similkameen Valleys, but have been seen in the area and are posing a threat to natural areas.

Invasive species can be plants, animals, aquatic life and micro-organisms. They can come from across the country or across the globe. These unwelcome invaders create an imbalance in nature by competing for the same resources that native species need to survive. The economic costs associated with invasive species in Canada are measured in the tens of billions of dollars, and those costs are escalating.

“For the past 25 years, OASISS has been dedicated to protecting the Okanagan-Similkameen from invasive species,” said Nick Burdock, chair of the invasive species society. “Our success can be attributed to the hard work and collective energies of our staff, Board and contractors, working alongside our many partners.”

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OASISS collaborates with more than 30 organizations, including all levels of government, utility companies, conservation and stewardship groups, Indigenous communities, forestry and mining companies, and cattle producer associations.

Prevention of harmful new invasions is the priority, as it is the most cost-effective way to deal with the problem. Once species are established, the task becomes far more complex and costly. Keeping invasive mussels out of the province continues to be a hot topic and is the focus of an Okanagan-wide campaign this summer.

“Globally, invasive species are the second largest threat to biodiversity after habitat loss,” said executive director Lisa Scott.

“Our work is more important now than ever. We are ready to work with everyone, across jurisdictions, to protect natural ecosystems in the Okanagan-Similkameen for the benefit of generations to come.”

The website at www.oasiss.ca has more information on invasive species in the area.

The invasive species society has been active since 1996. Initially it focused on managing invasive plants, but since 2012, it has also worked to manage invasive animals in the region.

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