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Caring for the land

Caring for the Land – “Pitching in to restore Ellis Creek”

Stewardship is the voluntary conservation and care of habitat and wildlife by landowners and community groups. Conservation organizations in the South Okanagan work with communities, schools, landowners and land managers to understand and care for nature on their lands, by providing information, technical support, and often “hands-on” help in conserving, restoring and enhancing natural areas.

There are over private 50 landowners in the Okanagan and Similkameen areas that work in partnership with a local stewardship society to care for approximately 3000 acres of wildlife habitat. These landowners are able to maintain agricultural, tourism and other practices while implementing best management practices for wildlife.

At Ellis Creek Basin in Penticton, stewardship and conservation organizations partnered with the TD Tree Days and the City of Penticton to restore the sensitive riparian area near the creek. Over 1000 plants have been planted here during two annual work bees that draw on the efforts of volunteers to bring back habitat for fish and wildlife that has been damaged.

Kenn and Sandra Oldfield

Owners, Tinhorn Creek Vineyards

What do you love about the Okanagan? 

Sandra: For me having moved up from California I like the variedness of it. It’s not a monoculture here. It’s got good protection of farmland as well as lots of native areas. Not many people know that right behind us is the whole Kobau range, with native grasses and fauna that exist here. For me I like going up there, where the wildflowers and birds are bountiful.

Kenn: Right up behind our property is the Thompson plateau. I love that right from the edge of our farmland it goes straight into a natural rangeland native landscape.

What do you worry about when you think about the Okanagan and the environment in the future? Why is a healthy environment important to you?

Sandra: I have long term concerns about water, and development pressure. I don’t like to see our native rangeland turned over to development. We’re always going to see those pressures because we’re always going to be growing but it’s a matter of how you balance people and wildlife. The only way to do it is if you’re in a group, collaborating, talking about it together. I think the conservation fund will provide that opportunity.

What do you hope your personal legacy for the Okanagan will be? What are you most proud of?

Sandra: Being stewards of our own land is as much as we could ever hope for. I think we’ll turn this land over in better condition than when we took it on. But from a wider Okanagan perspective I think the only thing that I can do is trying to show businesses that you can be financially successful and you can be sustainable. Those two things aren’t mutually exclusive. Our sustainability programs here on the farm have saved us money. I think that’s the opposite of what most business owners think. They think to become sustainable takes a lot of capital input and instead it actually just means making your operations more efficient.

Kenn: I think the best that we can do, is be a good example, to show people what can be done. I’m most proud of our reputation for the things we’ve done here on the vineyard. Some of the loyalty from our customers comes from how we feel about the environment and what we do here to make a difference. It’s the little steps that can help a great deal.

What do you think about a household levy of $10/average/year? What could the benefits of a South Okanagan Conservation Fund be?

Sandra: People have the opportunity now, for literally a buck a month, to have local control over resources, to have a local discussion and prioritize things. Do I want to see more taxes? Probably not, but every household here takes advantage of everything that this levy would fund. Everybody loves nature, but they can’t just expect it can go on without funding. Show me someone here that use or doesn’t look at or respect the nature that’s around us. There’s a reason why we choose to live here and it’s because of nature, so even if you’re not physically partaking you’re here because of it and we need money to sustain it.

Kenn: The nicest thing for me about the conservation fund is local money means local control. If you put it in to the pot yourself then you’ve got a say over how that pot gets used. If we can leverage it to get federal funds then so much the better.