Join SOSCP partners and friends for the Annual General Meeting
Wednesday, May 13th, 1 p.m.
Penticton Ramada Inn, Atrium Meeting Room
1050 Eckhardt Avenue

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Vaseux Lake Antelope-brush Property. Graham Osbourne photo.

The Nature Trust of British Columbia is working to acquire 34.6 hectares to create the largest private holding of rare Antelope-brush habitat in the South Okanagan (152 hectares). Fifteen years in the making, this fourth and final phase of the Antelope-brush Conservation Area project is underway. Located at the south end of Vaseux Lake, this acquisition along with The Nature Trust’s adjoining property is home to more than 20 species at risk. Most notably, this land supports more than half of the Canadian population of the Behr’s Hairstreak butterfly.  TNT is grateful to the many individuals and organizations that have helped with this project to date and are asking for support to raise $280,000 by March 31, 2015. Your support will help conserve a critical piece of British Columbia’s South Okanagan.

Find out more about the family history and important habitats associated with this important area. Antelope-brush TNT BC project. Or go directly to The Nature Trust of BC site to donate.

Kelowna, November 7, 2014.

The Okanagan Basin Water Board (OBWB) and Okanagan Nation Alliance (ONA) held a joint news conference welcoming new funding from Environment Canada towards Phase 2 of the Okanagan Wetlands Strategy project and some significant additional work by the ONA.

While Phase 1 involved public outreach, data collection, prioritization, and mapping of Okanagan wetlands, Phase 2 includes two years of wetland restoration and rehabilitation. The goal is to complete six projects, three by March 2015, and another three by March 2016. In support of this effort, a total of $50,000 was granted to the OBWB for project management over two years, and another $50,000 was provided to ONA for hands-on wetland projects. These hands-on projects include important work by ONA to support the Western Painted Turtle on the Penticton Indian Reserve near Penticton airport.

“Okanagan wetlands provide enormous benefits to people by protecting against floods, improving water quality and water supply, controlling erosion and supporting a host of recreational activities,” noted Kelowna-Lake Country MP Ron Cannan in announcing funding. “ “Together, we will continue to find new ways to work together to protect our lands, waters, and wildlife,” added Cannan.

“The Okanagan People have a strong relationship with the water,” said Penticton Indian Band Chief Jonathan Kruger, speaking for the Okanagan Nation. “Protecting and enhancing wetlands is vital to maintaining that relationship. This project is part of the larger water strategy for the Nation and it is through partnerships like this, and collaboration that we will continue to move forward to ensure there is water for tomorrow.”

“Wetlands, once considered a nuisance and a waste of valuable land, are an important part of our community,” stressed OBWB Chair Doug Findlater, noting the importance of the wetland strategy. Today, more than 85% of the Okanagan’s wetlands & natural riparian areas are gone, and remaining areas are at risk of loss, making the need for work in these areas all the more important, he added.

“Thanks to funding from Environment Canada, we are pleased to announce the hiring of Jillian Tamblyn as the OBWB’s Okanagan Wetlands Strategy Project Manager. Over the next two years, Jillian will be working with the ONA, plus many more partners to see these projects through, helping create communities that are more resilient to flooding, and pleasant to live in.”

Phase 2 recently kicked off with a fencing project at McLachlan Lake for a wetland in need of protection from cattleand off-road vehicles.

Partners in Phase 2 include the Regional District of Central Okanagan, BC Wildlife Federation, South Okanagan Similkameen Conservation Program, Okanagan Collaborative Conservation Program, Okanagan Similkameen Stewardship Society , and B.C. Ministry of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations. This partnership will grow as more groups join in hands-on work/

Phase 3 will involve the development of a comprehensive Okanagan Wetland Strategy document for future work, informed by the previous phases.

October 2014 2!

It was during the work to implement the Garnet Valley  Motor Vehicle Closure project  that we noticed an area that had obviously been a wetland in a previous life. Hard-hit by cattle and mud-boggers – for the first time in many years this area was struggling to hold a very small amount of water and was being punished for doing so by off road vehicle vandals. A bit of local research confirmed this was a wetland in the past – so  vast that is was  known as “McLachlan Lake” and at one time it had been fenced off judging from the remnants of barbed wire and old posts strewn about.  Maybe with some luck and a fence to exclude cattle and off-road vehicles, this wetland could come back. Inspired by the success of the Ritchie Lake project, SOSCP approached the local rancher Dave Casorso, FLNRO Range Officers Charles Oduro and Rob Dinwoodie, and the District Manager Ray Crampton to get permission to re-establish a fence around it. At the same time, conservation partners were working towards an Okanagan Wetland Strategy and were looking for a project that they could sink their teeth into.

image001Within just a couple of weeks from conception to completion, SOSCP and many partners, funders and helpers were able to get this fencing project off the ground and completed. Led by the  SOSCP Program Manager, with funds and staff help from the BC Wildlife Federation, OBWB and the Central Okanagan Regional District, the fence was completed in four very long, very tiring days thanks to Meadow Valley Construction, members of the Summerland Sportsmen’s Association and other community volunteers. What a dedicated crew! Although trying to stop off road vehicle damage in the Okanagan sometimes it seems a losing battle to those who willingly destroy the environment, it is equally inspiring to start and finish a project with people who want to make a difference, who go the extra mile and show up to work hard, with a smile, in the mud and rain. A very special thank you goes out to  Dave Carleton, Ray Paulsen, Dave McClellan, Doug and Kathi Penny from Meadow Valley Construction, Lorraine Bennest, Sue George, Murray Rooney, Neil Fletcher, Diane Kiss, Lia McKinnon and Jillian Tamblyn.  

The fence is done!!best volunteers ever 2

Garnet Valley Sept 2014In late September, volunteers from the Summerland Sportsmen’s Association worked alongside the Conservation Officer Service and SOSCP in Garnet Valley north of Summerland, posting signs and deactivating illegal trails. The project, partly funded by the Habitat Conservation Trust Foundation Public Conservation Assistance Fund, was initiated by the Province of BC Fish and Wildlife and COs in support of new Wildlife Act Motor Vehicle Prohibition Regulations. Garnet Valley has some of the Okanagan’s’ most valuable wildlife habitat – including south facing slopes which are ideal winter and early spring habitat for mule deer. Garnet Valley is home to conservation lands that were purchased by the Province for their extremely important value to wildlife. The valley contains sensitive wetlands, grasslands and open forests, and is a link for wildlife to connect to other important natural areas away from the Hwy 97 corridor. Motorized vehicles cause disturbance to wildlife and have degraded habitat in Garnet due to illegal trail building. The new regulations for Garnet Valley designate open, legal routes and close illegal routes to protect wildlife and allow habitat to recover.
“The success of the Ritchie Lake fencing project and the recovery of that wetland has inspired all of us, the sportsmen’s club, the conservation partnership and the provincial government to keep working for habitat recovery in the Garnet”, said Bryn White, SOSCP  Program Manager. Violations and fines will be imposed for those who travel off the designated routes, and individuals who cause significant damage to the environment can be subject to penalties under the Forests and Range Practices Act. Anyone can report illegal activities and environmental damage by calling the RAPP line 1-877-952-RAPP (7277).

July and August is a hot and exciting time to be in the Okanagan. Wildfires can get the adrenaline surging – but so can visionary ideas and leadership. On July 17th, the RDOS Planning and Development Committee moved to “approve in principle” the establishment of a Conservation Fund. This follows a motion from the City of Penticton Council on June 23rd to support the exploration of a Conservation Fund. SOSCP will be working with staff to obtain public opinion and further develop fund details as a team over the next many months.

The presentation made to the Committee by SOSCP highlighted the benefits of such fund including protecting special places for people and wildlife, ensuring clean air and water, restoring and enhancing the important natural areas and community values that contribute to the spectacular South Okanagan-Similkameen way of life.

What is clear in our conversations with decision-makers and community members around a conservation fund is that we need a significant financial goal to meet conservation needs, and the more participating areas to share in that, the better.

Past polling indicates strong support for a dedicated conservation fund in the region (86%). Residents willing to pay through their taxes quote an amount of $50 or less – with a greater emphasis on between $10 and 20. A number of scenarios for a regional fund here could rest between $9 and $13 per household.

The leadership shown today is exciting and I am looking forward to continuing to develop and explore the concept with our local government and conservation partners, and the communities that SOSCP serves.

In 2012 and 2013, BC Frogwatch received unconfirmed reports of invasive American Bullfrogs near Penticton and Summerland. This introduced species has not previously been reported in this area.

Okanagan Similkameen Stewardship is seeking people to become volunteer citizen scientists to help monitor for bullfrogs over the next two weeks. Volunteers can participate in daytime or nighttime pond searches being conducted in July. Those wishing to attend, volunteer, or report a bullfrog sighting should contact Alyson Skinner at 250-809-1980 or alysonskinner@gmail.com.

Photo: Carl D. Howe, Wikimedia Commons.

Photo: Carl D. Howe, Wikimedia Commons.

Bullfrogs were introduced in the Okanagan in the 1950s close to the Canada-US border. Since 2004, researchers, private landowners, conservation organizations, and government collaborated in bullfrog removal efforts in the south Okanagan. Removal efforts have drastically reduced bullfrog occurrence near the Canada-US border; however, a handful of bullfrogs can colonize a new area within one or two breeding seasons. Detecting all individuals is essential in preventing the spread of this species.

Introduced bullfrogs pose a great threat to native Okanagan amphibians. Bullfrogs are voracious predators of native fish, frogs and salamanders. They also reproduce rapidly by laying thousands of eggs, outcompete other animals for food, and spread disease to native amphibians. Many native amphibians are at risk due to human influences such as habitat loss, road mortality, and pollution. Removing the added threat of bullfrogs is vital to the survival of native amphibians. Bullfrogs live in year-round ponds and take up to two seasons to mature into adults. Other species which live in permanent ponds, such as the endangered Blotched Tiger Salamander, are at particular risk.

A mature American Bullfrog is the size of a dinner plate and is olive-yellow with a grey belly. Males have bright yellow throats during mating season. A prominent tympanic ear membrane is visible. Adult males have a distinctive loud call that can be heard during the spring and summer.

Visit www.OkanaganSimilkameenStewardship.ca for more information on this initiative.

The Nature Trust of British Columbia announced the acquisition of a 12.32 hectare (30.4 acre) property in the Okanagan, at the south end of Vaseux Lake, between Okanagan Falls and Oliver. This acquisition and the adjacent Antelope-brush Conservation Area, which is also owned by The Nature Trust, are home to more than 20 species at risk. Most notably, this land supports more than half of the Canadian population of the Behr’s Hairstreak butterfly.

Bighorn Sheep, Pallid Bat, Desert Night Snake, Great Basin Spadefoot and Lewis’s Woodpecker are among other species at risk that are known to occur on the Antelope-brush Conservation Area lands. Securement of this property ensures the protection of important wildlife habitat and connectivity with other conservation areas for many species, providing greater opportunity for species to adjust to climate change.

This property is ecologically significant and has been owned by the same family for 127 years. The family has cared deeply about protecting it. One family member, George Kennedy, provides a descriptive history: “In 1886 Peter McIntyre settled in the South Okanagan on land beneath a massive cliff. His land spread from the Okanagan River on the west side of the valley to a fast flowing creek on the east side. He chose to settle here because of this creek, where he installed a large water wheel which he used to generate power for a small saw mill.” “The family has tried to keep the land as natural as it was when ‘Uncle’ Pete arrived. It is an ongoing and formidable challenge to protect a pocket of naturalness in the midst of so much development in the Okanagan Valley.”

The Nature Trust of British Columbia had the support of many organizations and individuals to complete this acquisition including the landowner, FortisBC, the Habitat Conservation Trust Foundation, Habitat Stewardship Program, Sitka Foundation, Grayross Foundation, and the South Okanagan Naturalists’ Club. This acquisition was also supported by individual donors to The Nature Trust’s Okanagan Grasslands Acquisition Fund. The landowner’s donation was facilitated by the Federal Ecological Gifts Program.

The Kootenay Conservation Program and Regional District of East Kootenay provide funding for projects that benefit conservation in the area from Spillimacheen to Canal Flats through the Columbia Valley Local Conservation Fund (CVLCF). The conservation fund provides financial support for important projects that are not the responsibility of the federal, provincial or local governments. Through the CVLCF, the Kootenay Conservation Program has financially supported over 30 stewardship projects including ecosystem restoration, invasive species control, lake management, and water quality monitoring. Watch a two-minute video exploring what has been achieved by the fund in less than five years.

The Okanagan Community Bat Program is a new initiative to support bat conservation in the region by providing information about bats and getting the public’s assistance with locating and monitoring bat populations. A new web site and toll free phone number 1-855-9BC-BATS has been set up to allow residents to contact the program to get information on attracting bats, ask about health and safety concerns, and learn about options for dealing with bats in buildings. Margaret Holm is the Okanagan Program Coordinator for 2014 and can be reached at okanagan@bcbats.ca. The Community Bat Program has been established in nine regions of the province through the assistance of the Habitat Conservation Trust Foundation and BC Conservation Foundation.