Herbicide: How We Proceed With Caution

Herbicide: How We Proceed With Caution
Herbicide: How We Proceed With Caution
Herbicides are one of the tools used by the Field Crew in their invasive plant control efforts, but it can be a polarizing topic.

Here, we are taking you “behind the curtain” (or is it “under the PPE”?) for a glimpse into the precautions that we take to protect the environment, the communities we work with, and our staff.

This is the first of several articles in the “Deep Dive in the World of Herbicides” series.

Just one tool in the toolbox

  • Invasive plant management requires an integrated approach, with herbicides being just one tool in the toolbox.
  • We use all tools available to control invasive plants based on effectiveness, economics and environmental stewardship.
  • Herbicide is used at a site when it is deemed to be the best approach for a species, at a given site. Herbicide is used when manual removal, cultural control and/or biocontrol are ineffective, and/or not feasible.
  • The decision about which method to use depends on the species, site conditions, environmental variables, weather conditions, timing of treatment and considerations of the land owner or manager.

When controlling Spotted Knapweed infestations, herbicide is only used if manual removal, cultural control and/or biocontrol are ineffective, or not feasible. (photo credit: J. Leekie)


All SSISC staff scrupulously follow all federal, provincial and municipal regulations, in daily operations and in planning phases alike. This includes:

Furthermore, SSISC only uses herbicide products that have been approved by Health Canada.

You can learn more about the legal framework within which SSISC operates on our bylaws and regulations page.


Staff training

At the start of their employment, all SSISC staff involved in field operations receive intensive training, which covers topics such as:

  • Invasive species management techniques: inventory, control (manual, chemical, biological, cultural) and monitoring
  • Mapping and data management
  • Health and safety procedures
  • Safety and personal protective equipment
  • Use of equipment
  • Herbicides: legal framework, certification, application, record keeping, transport & storage, notification & signage.

Field crew members, lead hands and managers are also required to obtain the Industrial Vegetation and Noxious Weed Pesticide Applicator Certificate, which is issued by the Government of BC. Members of the outreach team and other staff obtain the Assistant Pesticide Applicator Certificate, not because they are involved in day-to-day operations, but so they understand the basics of herbicide use, and can provide information to community members.

Blue dye: leaving our mark

We never skimp on personal protective equipment (PPE). Our staff are trained to protect themselves from prolonged exposure, the highest risk of which actually occurs when they prepare the herbicide mixes, not when they apply them!

When the situation calls for herbicide use, our staff and contractors typically conduct spot treatments, which include directed sprays using a handheld or backpack sprayer, wiper treatments (wicking), or stem injection. Our staff and contractors do not conduct large, broadcast spray or boom spray operations.

When using the foliar spray application method, the Field Crew adds a blue dye to the herbicide mixture. This helps them see what plants they have already sprayed, thus ensuring that their application is thorough and that they don’t over-spray, or spray non-target plants.

A fair weather treatment

Herbicides come with clear restrictions regarding their use. Weather conditions (such as current and forecasted temperature and precipitations), as well as wind conditions, determine when the Field crew can use herbicides. For instance, on a windy day in Squamish or a hot day in Pemberton, herbicide treatment might not be an option because all weather conditions are not met.

Keeping our distances

The BC Integrated Pest Management Act and Regulation spells out the rules and regulations pertaining to the use of herbicides in BC, including prohibiting the use of herbicides within areas close to natural water courses, community watersheds and drinking water wells. These areas are referred to as pesticide-free zones and no-treatment zones. The specific distance required differs, depending on the type of herbicide being used, and the type of water source.

SSISC staff take great care to abide by these regulations and others, including the Pest Management Plan (for work on provincial public lands). For example, SSISC staff ensure that pesticide-free zones are identified and flagged prior to herbicide application.


To learn more

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