TNRD hoping province helps them get hopping on locust scourge

2016 looks like another mild winter and hot summer with forecasts for another grasshopper plague

From the B.C. Ministry  of Agriculture:  Of the estimated 60 species of grasshoppers found in British Columbia

From the B.C. Ministry of Agriculture: Of the estimated 60 species of grasshoppers found in British Columbia

By Adam Williams

Kamloops This Week

It’s going to take some time, but Ken Gillis is hopeful residents in the Thompson-Nicola Regional District might soon have some recourse in their ever-growing battle against grasshopper infestation.

As director of Area L south and east of Kamloops (Grasslands), Gillis spoke to KTW in August about the problems the insects were causing throughout the province, vowing to seek a meeting with Minister of Agriculture Norm Letnick at the convention of the Union of B.C. Municipalities in September.

“In some areas of our regional district, certainly in my area, the grasshoppers have reached plague proportions,” Gillis told KTW at the time.

On Dec. 10, the TNRD accepted for information a letter from Letnick, which referenced the possibility of introducing legislation similar to the Grasshopper Control Act, which was repealed by the NDP government in 1998.

The Act applied a grasshopper tax to rural areas where the pests had been shown to be a problem. Money collected each season gave landowners the resources necessary to deal with the insects in problem years. The tax was only applied to residents in rural areas who voted it in and did not affect city dwellers.

Letnick’s letter also said his staff had followed up with Jackie Tegart, MLA for the Fraser-Nicola, and would be doing the same with the TNRD and staff in the Ministry of Environment.

“I was quite impressed by the reception we got in Victoria from the minister,” Gillis said following the TNRD meeting.

He was especially heartened by Letnick’s inclusion in the conversation.

“I was encouraged by that because Jackie Tegart obviously understood that it was a serious problem — this is not some frivolous thing that we’re embarking on. This is a serious problem, very serious for ranchers.”

Gillis said he believes help is on its way, though it will take some time. He’s hoping landowners will have resources at their disposal in time for the 2017 growing season.

Sadly, it could mean another tough year in 2016.

“I think the combination of a mild winter, which it looks like we’re in for, and a hot summer, which everyone says we can expect, is going to play right into the hands of the grasshoppers,” Gillis said.

“They’re going to be a plague again — that’s my expectation and, as of now, we’re defenceless. We have no means of acting against them.”

For some of Gillis’ residents who have already been devastated by the insects, government help can’t come soon enough.

“Without mentioning any names, I’ve been advised that one rancher alone spent $30,000 on grasshopper control this year,” he said.  “That’s the kind of thing that we’re faced with.”