By Adam Williams
Kamloops This Week
Ken Gillis has seen firsthand the scourge of the grasshopper.
Last year, it was a field in Ashcroft, a ruler-straight line marking where the healthy, green alfalfa gave way to the grasshopper-ravaged crops.
This year, Gillis, the Thompson-Nicola Regional District’s Area L (Grasslands) director, has seen the pests destroy properties in Pritchard and take over land across his region outside of Kamloops.
“In some areas of our regional district, certainly in my area, the grasshoppers have reached plague proportions,” he said.
It’s the plague of the grasshoppers that has Gillis seeking a meeting with Minster of Agriculture Norm Letnick at next month’s convention of the Union of B.C. Municipalities, in hopes of reinstating the Grasshopper Control Act.
Gillis said the Act, which was repealed in 1998, applied a grasshopper tax to rural areas where the pests had been shown to be a problem. Money collected each season by the provincially managed program gave landowners the resources necessary to deal with the insects in problem years.
“It strikes me that, because of that, it should be self-funding,” Gillis said.
“I can’t imagine why it was repealed in the first place.”
Without the Act, Gillis said landowners are left with little recourse for managing growing grasshopper populations, which can easily get out of control in drought-like conditions.
Throughout the summer, a number of Alberta counties have declared agricultural disasters because of minimal rain and larger-than-normal grasshopper populations.
Gillis hasn’t yet sought the support of other regional districts, but will, if necessary.
“I remember reading about the locusts in the drought years of the 1930s and the damage that was inflicted on the Prairie provinces,” Gillis said.
There is no taxonomic distinction between locusts and grasshoppers.
“I can understand it now,. I’ve seen it with my own eyes,” he said.
“They can absolutely devastate an area.”