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  • Gayle Baker

All That You Ever Wanted to Knows About the Spongy Moth. . . and More

May 10

This ASK Salt Spring gathering welcomed CRD Local Community Commissioners (LCC) Brian Webster and Gayle Baker. After his Territorial Acknowledgement, Brian, wearing his apple-farming hat, leapt fearlessly into the currently raging spongy moth spraying controversy. Brian brought science into the discussion, warning us against letting fear and assumptions overwhelm science-based conclusions.


We learned that the spongy moth, (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lymantria_dispar) is, in the first phase of its life cycle, an invasive leaf-eating caterpillar that defoliates trees. Trees that are already stressed due to climate change and other challenges, can die from this defoliation. While all deciduous trees are at risk, of particular concern are our rare and precious Garry Oaks (https://ohgarryoaksociety.org/what-is-a-garry-oak/).


In addition to the ecological threat to Garry Oaks, a spongy moth infestation brings serious financial consequences to local farmers as this caterpillar can also defoliate fruit bushes, especially blueberries. With an infestation, a farmer’s ability to export fruit is threatened as other countries are prepared to refuse entrance of fruit from areas with spongy moth infestations.


While the spongy moth is well-established in the eastern provinces, so far BC has been successfully controlling this invasive pest. For decades, traps have been set each year. When numbers of males caught in these traps rise to an established level, spraying is done in affected areas in hopes of avoiding the widespread infestation of our eastern provinces.


But spraying. . . .come on, this sounds dangerous! In response, Brian explained more about the spray used. We learned that there is a well-respected review process for sprays, the Organic Materials Review Institute (https://www.omri.org/). The spray used on spongy moths is an organic bacteria that has been tested and tested again, repeatedly found to pose no threat to humans, pets, birds, insects, squirrels - nothing except caterpillars, like the spongy moth, with alkaline stomachs. While not harming other life forms, this bacteria interacts with the caterpillars’ alkaline stomachs to kill them.


Will everyone support this spraying on Salt Spring? Absolutely not, but Brian gave us great information and made a strong case supporting action rather than allowing this voracious and invasive spongy moth to defoliate our precious Garry Oaks as well as threatening our fruit farmers’ ability to export products.


When asked what “excites and delights” him, Brian responded that, in the year since he was elected, he and other Commissioners have worked very hard, often behind the scenes, to establish essential processes and procedures. Gayle added that the support of CRD Victoria has been a major factor in the ability of our LCC to establish those important prerequisites for success. Often seen as only a large bureaucracy, she spoke of the many supportive individuals in CRD Victoria who clearly want the LCC to thrive and who have taken extraordinary steps to ensure that success.


While some seemingly-simple LCC requirements, like one meeting a month held after working hours, were more difficult than expected, Brian is pleased with a number of accomplishments, including:

  1. Finally establishing a regular schedule of two meetings every month, the second Thursday beginning at 5:00 p. m. and the third Thursday beginning at 9:00 a. m. in the SIMS (former Middle School) Boardroom,

  2. Scheduling a much-needed series of strategic planning sessions in late May, and

  3. Hosting a meeting of housing leaders to determine next steps, also scheduled in May.


Brian admitted that he is one who likes to get this done as soon as possible and that the work needed to make these small, but important, steps, took longer than desirable. Despite this, he is confident that important progress has been made to get “The Good Ship Salt Spring” moving in the right direction.


But, not yet celebrating, Brian noted that there are many challenges awaiting Local Commissioners. While he reminded us that not all Commissioners agree, among Brian’s top priorities are:


  • Request that the CRD Board delegate administrative authority over all of the remaining local CRD services to the LCC.



  • Once the LCC is effectively directing all local CRD services and budgets, he believes the LCC will be in a good position to start discussions with our two large Improvement Districts, Fire Protection and North Salt Spring Waterworks, about opportunities to work together to keep those important services sustainable in the future.


Would another referendum be required to expand LCC services? The LCC is bound by two bylaws:


While some believe that expanding the services under the authority of the LCC would require another referendum, Brian has a different conclusion: Voters approved the establishment of the LCC not Bylaw 4507. He believes that changes to this bylaw by expanding authorized LCC services could be made by a simple CRD Board bylaw revision. Stay tuned. . . .


Brian recently attended a local government meeting concerning management of our harbours. A brief summary of the meeting was in last week’s ASK Salt Spring report: (https://www.saltspringcommunityalliance.org/post/welcoming-mla-adam-olsen-who-do-we-think-we-are). NOTE: All weekly reports since 2019 can be found at asksaltspring.com. He believes that harbour concerns as well as support services for our growing number of liveaboards are just a few of the many imperatives demanding LCC solutions.


As our time together was drawing to a close, Brian was asked about progress with our long-awaited HarbourWalk. We learned that the largely-dormant HarbourWalk Steering Committee has been revitalized by the LCC and now includes representatives from the LCC (2), an Islands Trustee, Chamber, and three members from our community ((https://www.crd.bc.ca/docs/default-source/crd-document-library/committeedocuments/salt-spring-island-local-community-commission/20240311/03-11-2024agenda_ganges-harbourwalk-steering-committee.pdf?sfvrsn=a378d8ce_5).


Community and First Nations engagement processes and development of concept designs are underway and expected to be completed soon. When they are complete, development of detailed plans will begin. These shovel-ready designs are a critical step forward. They are required by the Ministry for approval of the needed right of way. They are also needed for a cost estimate of the HarbourWalk construction as well as meeting grant eligibility requirements. While still a long road before construction, Brian is pleased that this long-delayed project is moving forward again.


As our time together was over for this week, participants thanked Brian and Gayle for a rich conversation as well as for all the care and hard work all of our Local Commissioners are putting into their innovative and challenging new role. As we prepared to leave to savour our lovely summer weather, one participant said with gusto: “You guys are great!”   


ASK Salt Spring is taking a holiday for this Friday, May 17, for the May Long Weekend. So, please take this Friday to enjoy our summer-like weather.


But come back next Friday, May 24, 11-1, to the SIMS (former Middle School) classroom next to the Boardroom to welcome Islands Trustee Laura Patrick and Planner Jason Youmans.


As is has been a while since Islands Trust joined us, you likely have many questions.

  • Please tell us about your plans to revisit the Official Community Plan (OCP).

  • Can you help us better understand the draft Islands Trust Policy statement?

  • What do you hope to accomplish in 2024?

  • What do you see as Salt Spring’s most serious challenges?

  • What do you see as Islands Trust most important accomplishments since you were elected in 2022?

  • And?


Remember, do NOT come to ASK Salt Spring this Friday, May 17 - enjoy the May Long Weekend! . . . . But, please DO come May 24 to welcome  Islands Trust’s Laura and Jason.


Just in case you are interested. . . .This report has been written by Gayle Baker, Ph. D., founder of ASK Salt Spring, currently also a Salt Spring Local Community Commissioner. This report has also been edited by this week’s special guest.


Want to help? We welcome volunteers to join the team. Please join us making ASK Salt Spring ever better!


Big News:

ASK Salt Spring now has ongoing funding! A heartfelt THANK-YOU to the Institute for Sustainability, Education, and Action (I-SEA) and its Executive Director, Peter Allen !!!


***New fundraising option***

You can now give the Return It change you earn from your bottles to ASK Salt Spring: Account #230.


Any questions, anytime: ask@asksaltspring.com


Want to see reports from all the ASK Salt Spring gatherings,

monthly schedule of upcoming gatherings? Asksaltspring.com.

Want to listen to interviews of our special guests?ASK Salt Spring Answered


Want to help? ASK Salt Spring now has a Save-a-Tape box at Country Grocer.

We love your receipts! Remember: #15


Our Partners. . . .

Institute for Sustainability, Education, and Action (I-SEA), Country Grocer through Save-a-Tape and Gift Cards and Island Savings' Simple Generosity grant.

A heartfelt Thank-You!

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