Community based approach to yellow flag management and riparian restoration in Summerland

Okanagan Similkameen Stewardship Society

Okanagan Similkameen Stewardship Society has been working with local community members for over 20 years. OSSS helps people care for important natural areas by providing information and ways to coexist with wildlife, and assisting landowners to steward natural areas on their properties while maintaining their farms, ranches, vineyards or other land uses.

Yellow flag iris invades riparian areas and wetlands throughout the south Okanagan. This plant spreads through seeds, horizontal roots, and pieces of roots can break off and form new plants. The seeds float on the water in spring and fall, causing them to spread quickly, and downstream in creeks and rivers. These plants form a thick, monoculture mat that reduces biodiversity, damages wildlife habitat, causes flooding and displaces native trees and shrubs. Further, an estimated 85% of wetland and riparian areas have already been destroyed by urban and agricultural development.

Residents face many barriers to undertaking conservation action on their properties that can be boiled down to time, money, and skill. Without support, landowners are very unlikely to apply for the notifications required to manage invasive plants in their riparian areas. Further, large patches of yellow-flag iris are best controlled with benthic barrier, which requires specialized knowledge to install properly. This project also engages the community as the creek is a vector for invasive plants and as such, managing from upstream to down in a community-coordinated manner is more strategic and will have more success.

This project is the first year of a 2-year request. Approved by Regional District Okanagan Similkameen Board and $25,000 was allocated from the South Okanagan Conservation Fund in 2022. The project is expected to complete by January 31, 2023.