FERMANAGH and Omagh District Council (FODC) brought forward a draft Invasive Alien Species (IAS) strategy at its latest Environmental Services Committee meeting this week.
Invasive alien species (IAS) are defined as harmful non-native species whose introduction or spread threatens the environment, the economy, or society, including human health.
After habitat destruction, IAS are the second biggest threat to biodiversity.
Once established they are extremely difficult and costly to control and eradicate, and their ecological effects are often irreversible.
According to the report the threat currently posed by invasive species in Northern Ireland is costing around £55 million a year - covering the cost of management and removal of invasive species across the Province as well as its impact on construction, infrastructure and agriculture.
Historically, FODC and its legacy councils have been actively involved in the promotion and understanding of IAS both internally in Council and externally throughout the District.
And the Council has been using best practice methods to control a selection of IAS on Council estate.
“IAS recording and awareness raising have been a key element of the Fermanagh and Omagh Local Biodiversity Action Plan (LBAP) to date as has partnership working to achieve sustainable results,” says the report.
Given that IAS prevention and control is a key action to be delivered by Council through the LBAP, Corporate and Community Plans and that the development of an IAS for Council is a performance target for this financial year, the draft strategy is timely.
The Council is legally obliged to prevent the spread of IAS on its land under a number of pieces of legislation including the Wildlife Order (NI) 1985.
Taking forward its strategy, the Council plans to: train staff in te recognition of the most common IAS in the district; proactively locate and map IAS on FODC estate to create a comprehensive and dynamic database and GIS layer; create IAS site management plans; train staff in best practice control measures so where possible IAS control can be carried out in house; outsource IAS control, where required; work inpossible on joint IAS projects across the district; provide information and guidance so far as possible to the public; proactively raise awareness on the negative impacts of IAS through events, press releases, posters and signage.
According to the draft strategy, a fuller detailed Action Plan will be developed in 2018 as IAS are surveyed for and individual site management plans are created.