The South Okanagan Conservation Fund was established to support local environmental projects that would make a difference to the sustainability of the land, water and wildlife of the region. The RDOS has granted $482,365 to eight projects making that difference in 2021. From salmon to bats, lakeshores to shrubsteppe –  local organizations are working hard to protect and sustain our unique biological treasures of the South Okanagan.

Read more about the projects and people who are leading conservation and the Fund that is making it happen.

(Photo Credit Michael Bezener, En’owkin Centre)

Precious wetlands, old-growth forest and grasslands now protected as part of internationally significant conservation area in the South Okanagan

Osoyoos, BC (December 15, 2020) – An internationally significant conservation area just outside Osoyoos has just gotten bigger. The Nature Conservancy of Canada is announcing the addition of 126 hectares (311 acres) to the Sage and Sparrow Conservation Area.

Located fewer than 30 minutes west of Osoyoos along the Canada / U.S. border, Sage and Sparrow now encompasses over 1,500 hectares (3,750 acres) of rare grasslands and interior Douglas-fir forest at the confluence of the Okanagan and Similkameen valleys. This area is within the traditional territories of the Syilx (Okanagan) Peoples.

The Sage and Sparrow Conservation Area is nestled within the provincial South Okanagan Grasslands Protected Area. The new addition extends the conservation area to the north, filling in a gap in a north-south conservation corridor in one of the country’s rarest and most threatened ecosystems.

This unique landscape represents the northernmost tip of the arid, desert-like ecosystem that extends through central Washington State. Sage and Sparrow provides essential habitat for 62 confirmed at risk plants and animals, some of which are found nowhere else in Canada. Several species are listed under Canada’s Species at Risk Act, including western tiger salamander, southern mountain population (endangered), western rattlesnake (threatened), Great Basin gophersnake (threatened), Great Basin spadefoot (threatened) and Lewis’s woodpecker (threatened).

The new conservation lands span a diversity of habitats. In addition to sagebrush steppe and bunchgrass-dominated grasslands, the land includes some of the oldest stands of interior Douglas-fir and ponderosa pine forest in the broader area. Two large wetlands provide precious moisture in this arid landscape.n

Woodlands of trembling aspen offer nesting habitat for birds as well as cooling shade during temperature extremes for all wildlife. Snakes, gophers and mice make use of the pockets of rugged terrain scattered throughout the property. And the variety of terrain, micro-climates and structural diversity add immensely to the property’s conservation value.

The Sage and Sparrow Conservation Area is open to the public for walk-in access only. Click here for a bird’s-eye view of the new acquisition.

This project has been made possible by the contributions of many funders, including the Government of Canada through the Natural Heritage Conservation Program, part of Canada’s Nature Fund, Regional District of Okanagan-Similkameen, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Sitka Foundation, Okanagan Similkameen Parks Society, Oliver Osoyoos Naturalists Club, South Okanagan Naturalists’ Club and many generous donors.

NCC received just over $266,000 from the South Okanagan Conservation Fund to help secure the property.

“The Regional District of Okanagan Similkameen is proud to be working with the Nature Conservancy of Canada to help protect the region’s natural heritage. Expanding Sage and Sparrow will provide greater security to dozens of at-risk species, in one of the province’s most unique landscapes.” Karla Kozakevich, chair, Regional District of Okanagan Similkameen.

 

 

Nature Conservancy of Canada

Nature Conservancy of Canada works with partners to conserve important natural areas and biological diversity across all regions of Canada through direct purchase, land donations, retiring resource extraction permits and licenses, and negotiated conservation agreements. Since 1974, NCC has helped to protect 820,000 hectares (2 million acres) in the province of BC and 14 million hectares (35 million acres) across Canada. 

This project is a fee simple acquisition of two parcels of land totaling about 308 acres northwest of Osoyoos BC, immediately north and contiguous with NCC’s Sage and Sparrow Conservation Area and the south Okanagan Grasslands Protected Area. With this acquisition, the total amount of NCC’s connected private conservation land will be 1516 hectares, an increase of 8%.

This acquisition is a key addition to the Sage and Sparrow Conservation Area that will contribute to a larger protected north-south corridor within the landscape that includes the South Okanagan Grasslands Protected Area (SOGPA). A multitude of protected species including migratory birds, waterfowl, songbirds, amphibians, reptiles, ungulates, and wide-ranging animals, will benefit from this acquisition.

The key habitat values on the property are significant, and are a diverse mosaic of ecosystems which provide for a multitude of habitats and species. On the adjacent Sage and Sparrow holdings, there are at least 62 federally and/or provincially listed species at risk. The property contains seven of the eight biodiversity conservation targets identified in NCC’s South Okanagan Similkameen Natural Area Conservation Plan and are an excellent representation of the grasslands and dry and moist forest ecosystems in the South Okanagan region. Additionally, two large wetlands on the property hold water year-round and provide vital habitat for both wetland and upland species in this otherwise arid landscape.

The project was approved by the Regional District Okanagan Similkameen Board and $266,597 was allocated from the South Okanagan Conservation Fund in July of 2020. The South Okanagan Conservation Fund dollars match funding from other sources as well as in-kind contributions. This project is now complete, with the acquisition finalized in December of 2020. See the video here

The Regional District of Okanagan- Similkameen (RDOS) is seeking qualified individuals to volunteer as members for the newly established South Okanagan Conservation Fund Technical Advisory Committee (TAC).

The South Okanagan Conservation Fund is in support of undertaking and administering activities, projects and works that include, but are not limited to, water, environment, wildlife, land and habitat conservation efforts to protect natural areas within participating areas of the South Okanagan which includes Electoral Areas A, C, D, E and F of the Regional District of Okanagan-Similkameen, along with the District of Summerland, Town of Oliver and City of Penticton.

Committee members will be appointed by the RDOS Board of Directors, based on qualifications, expertise and experience.  The TAC’s role is to provide sound, expert, technical review of annual project proposals and provide recommendation to the RDOS.  The TAC is not a decision making body.

Candidates for membership must possess expertise in the following areas:

  • Management, restoration and enhancement of fish and wildlife habitat, including sensitive terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems;
  • Native fish and wildlife conservation including species at risk;
  • Land and natural resource management, environmental studies, environmental science, hydrology, hydrobiology, ecology, or conservation biology.

Prospective committee members will have the following qualifications:

  • Practical knowledge of and experience in the specific technical areas;
  • Understanding of conservation practices and approaches including stewardship, outreach, traditional ecological knowledge, acquisitions and securement;
  • Practical knowledge of the non-profit and society sector;
  • Strong ethical standards and personal integrity;
  • Ability and willingness to address issues in a non-partisan manner, while considering the opinion of others and working as a team member;
  • Comforts with open dialogue and agreement through consensus;
  • Willingness to sign, and adhere to the Conflict of Interest Guidelines and Confidentiality agreement;
  • Willingness and ability to attend and participate actively in Committee meetings and/or field tours.

Term

Technical Advisory Committee members may serve a maximum of three years, with some members serving one or two year terms initially to ensure membership continuity.

If you are interested in serving on this committee, please submit your resume by September 30th 2020 at 4:30pm to:

  • Christy Malden, Manager of Legislative Services
    101 Martin Street
    Penticton, BC V2A 5J9Email: info@rdos.bc.ca
    Direct line: 250.492.0237

More information on the South Okanagan Conservation Fund Terms of Reference, including the TAC Terms of Reference and the Conflict of Interest Guidelines, can be found here.  Visit www.soconservationfund.ca for more information.

SOSCP Program Manager Bryn White presented the final South Okanagan Conservation Fund 2018 project results at the Regional District Board this past April 18th. These were the first projects ever funded under the new conservation fund program established in 2016. “All projects have been completed and final reporting requirements met, with one coming forward shortly to request an extension.” The seven projects were funded to the tune of $400,000 from the newly established South Okanagan Conservation Fund. “The incredible thing”, said White, “is that we knew that these funds would leverage outside sources of support but we didn’t realize it would be so significant with $2.5 Million raised from other sources, and $151,000 of in-kind contributions.” SOSCP assists the Regional District Okanagan Similkameen with administration of the South Okanagan Conservation Fund. “The first year has been an incredible success”, says White, “what an amazing model for achieving local sustainability priorities.” SOSCP has developed a guide to help other local governments and community organizations explore the development of local conservation funds in their own communities. The guide can be found here.

 

Securing key properties for conservation, building spawning beds and creating passage for salmon to complete their 1000 km life cycles, reconnecting the Okanagan River floodplain, helping farmers to co-exist with wildlife, residents caring for nature in their neighbourhoods and more!  Read all about the groundbreaking first round of projects funded by the South Okanagan Conservation Fund. Over $400,000 was allocated to seven projects to ensure sustainability and quality of life in our communities.

Photo credit Michael Bezener

SOSCP Program Manager Bryn White is pleased to announce the completion of a Second Edition of the essential “how-to” guide for local governments and community groups interested in establishing dedicated funds for local community sustainability and environmental conservation projects. “This guide contains critical information for anyone looking for capacity to ensure a sustainable future for their community. A healthy economy, clean air and water, tourism, agriculture, robust property values and attractive, investable communities – all rely on a healthy environment.” says White.  Local Conservation Funds in British Columbia provides current case studies and successful examples of campaigns and experiences from around the province, including additional resources to support local governments and community organizations. “Conservation funds are game-changers for communities, and this document is vital to achieving success. We are grateful to our funders and supporters for the ability to share this knowledge and experience with others.” The guide and additional support resources are available on the SOSCP website here.

 

In August 2017, the RDOS Board approved membership for the volunteer Technical Advisory Committee to ensure that proposals to the South Okanagan Conservation Fund receive an expert technical review based on fair assessment of merit and project effectiveness, providing a high level of accountability and recommendation of technically appropriate proposals to the RDOS Board of Directors.

In response to advertisements in local newspapers and via social media, 13 candidates submitted resumes for the 7 positions.  Selecting volunteers for this committee proved to be an extremely challenging and competitive process; a decision made very difficult by the many impressive applications received. The Committee was finalized with seven candidates representing a balance of academic, technical and practical experience, including over 170 years of combined experience, 13 post secondary degrees/diplomas and 5 are members of professional associations. The newly appointed Committee met in November to review applications and will be providing recommendations to the RDOS Board in early December. A brief biography of the Committee members can be found here.