Okanagan Similkameen Conservation Alliance

OSCA has been delivering species recovery outreach and extension for more than fifteen years, through strong working relationships with other non-government organizations, local governments and agricultural industry groups. OSCA is well-known for offering seminars and field workshops on species at risk for the viticulture and orchard industries, municipal public works and park staff. Over many years, OSCA and project partners, have developed multi-lingual printed material about wildlife management targeted to landowners and outside workers who encounter sensitive species at risk.

The Okanagan Similkameen Conservation Alliance is working to reduce the impacts that everyday work activities have on important wildlife in the South Okanagan. In the Okanagan, habitat loss and degradation associated with urban development, agriculture and recreation have contributed to many species and ecosystems becoming at risk. OSCA seeks to protect at-risk ecosystems and species in the South Okanagan by providing education on best management practices.

The ‘Managing At-Risk Wildlife at Work and Play’ coordinates and deliver outreach to address some of the most important elements of conservation in the region.

The project was approved by the Regional District Okanagan Similkameen Board and $ 8000 was allocated from the South Okanagan Conservation Fund in 2020. The South Okanagan Conservation Fund dollars match funding from other sources as well as in-kind contributions. The project is expected to complete by January 31 2021.

 

 

Okanagan Nation Alliance in partnership with the En’owkin Centre.

Okanagan Nation Alliance (ONA) formed in 1981 as the inaugural First Nations government in the Okanagan and among other functions, works to provide technical fisheries assistance for the Nation and its eight member communities, including acting as a liaison between federal and provincial fisheries agencies and other non-government organizations. ONA is actively involved in the conservation, protection, restoration, and enhancement of fish stocks, in particular for Okanagan River sockeye salmon, only one of two populations of sockeye salmon left in the international Columbia River Basin.

The En’owkin Centre is recognized internationally as a leader in the field of education, promoting an increased understanding of cultural traditions and ecological literacy among both aboriginal and non-aboriginal communities through hands-on, experienced based education and conservation through the ECOmmunity Place Locatee Lands project.

This project will reconnect the Okanagan River in Penticton to the historic floodplain habitat at the ECOmmunity Place Locatee Lands.

Reconnecting the Okanagan River Floodplain – In addition to the loss of instream habitat, the channelization of the Okanagan River in the 1950’s also contributed to the loss and disconnection of the river to the rich riparian, wetland and floodplain habitats. ONA and En’owkin Centre will re-engage 12 hectares of the historic floodplain on the ECOmmunity Place Locatee Lands, reconnecting the river to the last remaining contiguous piece of floodplain wetland in the Penticton area. The opportunity is significant as the only location to do so without requiring changes to existing urban infrastructure. The ECOmmunity Place Locatee Lands are home to many species at risk, and establishing the floodplain connection will help to re-establish habitat for wildlife including birds, amphibians, reptiles, and culturally significant species like ntytyix, Chinook Salmon Food Chief. Benefits to the South Okanagan region include natural flood protection, salmon spawning viewing, and restoration of fish and wildlife habitat, improved water quality and more.

k’əmcənitkw Floodplain Re-engagement will create off-channel rearing backwater area for native fish, particularly Chinook, and Rainbow Trout/Steelhead to offer refuge in high water and food sources during spring, summer, and fall. This year the project will purchase the river/floodplain connection culvert and associated materials, undertake construction tendering then award, excavate and re-contour the off-channel rearing area for salmonids.

This project is continuing and builds on a previous phase in 2018. This year 2 was approved by the Regional District Okanagan Similkameen Board and $26,917  was allocated from the South Okanagan Conservation Fund in 2020. The South Okanagan Conservation Fund dollars are matching significant confirmed funding from other sources. The project is expected to complete by January 31, 2021.

Bat Education and Ecological Protection Society (BEEPS)

BEEPS promotes the protection and preservation of bat species and provides education to the public in partnership with the BC Community Bat Program. The “Got Bats?” initiative promotes conservation of bats on private land, provides a resource to landowners dealing with bat issues, and engages citizen scientists to collect data on bat populations.

Half of the 16 species of bats in BC are of conservation concern, and many of them occur here in the Okanagan Valley. The Okanagan has more species of bats living here than anywhere else in Canada, and is home to many unique bats that are at risk due to loss of habitat and lack of suitable spots for winter hibernation and summer maternal colonies.

There are many threats facing bats including habitat loss and the potential arrival of White-nose Syndrome. White-nose Syndrome is a devastating fungus that has nearly wiped out several formerly common bat species in eastern North America in just a few years. Although WNS has not yet reached BC, it is predicted to arrive within the next ten years.

This project will mitigate threats to bats by protecting and enhancing bat habitat in the region through education and stewardship on private land. The project will increase residents’ knowledge, understanding, and stewardship of bats and their habitats, and reduce the effects of residential, commercial, and agricultural development. The project also focuses on developing educational materials and partnerships through the South Okanagan Community Bat Program, who provides outreach and education, identification and stewardship of maternity roosts, and promotion of Bat-friendly Communities.

Year 2 of this project was approved by the Regional District Okanagan Similkameen Board and $ 9893 was allocated from the South Okanagan Conservation Fund in 2020. The South Okanagan Conservation Fund dollars are matching significant confirmed funding from other sources including private grants and foundations. The project is expected to complete by January 31, 2021.

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.

Over one-third of the land in the South Okanagan is privately owned and managed. Empowering private landowners and residents to undertake conservation on their own lands and in their communities is critical to maintaining healthy ecosystems and thriving populations of native wildlife. The Society will engage South Okanagan landowners and managers to better coexist with wildlife, steward and enhance sensitive habitat and will get residents involved in grassroots projects in their neighbourhoods.

OSSS provides information, training, and technical assistance to increase the amount of habitat set aside for conservation, and works to establish
written management agreements with landowners to restore riparian areas, wetlands, grasslands & shrub-steppe, and other important natural areas. Because agriculture is such an important part of the South Okanagan community, OSSS focuses effort on supporting and engaging growers and ranchers in stewardship.

Landowners will be contacted and provided with information about wildlife and habitat, including best management practices and opportunities for habitat improvement, through re-vegetation of native plants, management of invasive species, fencing to exclude livestock or off-road vehicles, nest boxes, and other helpful stewardship activities. Where interested, OSSS can provide landowners with advice around long-term permanent land securement options.

OSSS will also engage residents in environmental awareness and stewardship by promoting voluntary stewardship opportunities like habitat restoration and plantings in their neighbourhood, and engaging land stewards and residents in workshops where people can learn more about the Community Bat Program, how to identify amphibians by their calls, and birding for beginners. Citizen scientists are important to the knowledge and recovery of wildlife.

The benefits of conservation actions on private lands and in neighbourhoods are shared with the entire South Okanagan region, and result in a healthier, more robust environment and engaged, proud community.

This is the third year of this continuing project. It was approved by the Regional District Okanagan Similkameen Board and $ 40,000 was allocated from the South Okanagan Conservation Fund in 2020. The South Okanagan Conservation Fund dollars are matching significant confirmed funding from other sources including private grants and foundations. The project is expected to complete by January 31 2021.

The Nature Conservancy of Canada

NCC is Canada’s leading land conservation organization, working to protect Canada’s most important natural areas and the species they sustain. Since 1962, NCC and its partners have helped to protect 2.8 million acres, coast to coast with 1 million acres conserved in British Columbia since 1974. NCC has been active in the Regional District of Okanagan Similkameen since 2002. Since that time, NCC has secured 4350 acres of high priority habitat by working with private landowners and has provided funding to other land trusts and the province to enable them to secure 6800 acres of high priority ecosystems.

The Nature Conservancy of Canada (NCC) will be conducting invasive plant management on two of NCC’s flagship conservation areas within the RDOS: the Sage and Sparrow Conservation Area and the Osoyoos Oxbows Conservation Area.

Invasive species present a global threat to biodiversity by changing plant community composition, displacing native plant species, altering hydrological regimes and degrading ecosystems which in turn negatively impact wildlife species that rely upon them. This project will have a direct and effective impact on reducing the threat of invasive plants on the Nature Conservancy of Canada’s Sage and Sparrow and Osoyoos Oxbows Conservation Areas in the South Okanagan.

Protecting landscapes from development or other human intrusions is not enough to safeguard nature for now and for future generations so they can inherit a biologically rich world. Conservation must go further by stewarding the land to enhance biodiversity, and one aspect of this is through invasive plant management. NCC’s conservation areas are contiguous with other protected or conserved lands in the South Okanagan. This project will prevent encroachment onto these regionally, nationally and internationally important areas in the South Okanagan.

This continuing project for year 2 was approved by the Regional District Okanagan Similkameen Board and $ 15,000 was allocated from the South Okanagan Conservation Fund in 2020. The South Okanagan Conservation Fund dollars are matching confirmed funding from other sources. The project is expected to complete by January 31, 2021.

Southern Interior Land Trust

The Southern Interior Land Trust (SILT) has, for over 30 years, worked to secure those gems and jewels of fish and wildlife habitat that act as “stepping-stones” for animal movement between larger conservation areas. SILT owns four conservation properties and has contributed to the purchase of many more. Natural shorelines, with their ribbon of native trees, shrubs, grasses and herbs benefit wildlife; protect properties from flood and erosion; and support ecological processes essential to clean, drinkable, swimmable, fishable water. With the current extent of lakeshore modification and development in the South Okanagan, the ecological function of our shorelines is clearly threatened.

This project continues in year 2, with the Love Your Lake Program, delivered for the first time in British Columbia. This year on Skaha and Twin Lakes, lakeshore landowners will be provided with a free, personalized and private evaluation of their shoreline, with specific actions for how to voluntarily protect and re-naturalize the shoreline and still maintain their waterfront view.

Our goal is to maintain ecological functions provided by shorelines by increasing landowner understanding of how they influence water quality and wildlife; by identifying and prescribing opportunities for protecting and enhancing shoreline habitats and; by inspiring and achieving landowner action to restore and protect their shoreline while maintaining, and perhaps enhancing, their property values and views. Many shoreline landowners have an interest in protecting water quality and wildlife, yet may not know that their shoreline actions are negatively affecting these values.

This project was approved for a second year by the Regional District Okanagan Similkameen Board and $ 39,047 was allocated from the South Okanagan Conservation Fund in 2020. The South Okanagan Conservation Fund dollars are matching confirmed funding from other sources including grant and foundation funds. The project is expected to complete by January 31, 2021.

The Okanagan and Similkameen Invasive Species Society (OASISS) has been actively participating in prevention, detection and management of invasive plants in the Okanagan-Similkameen since 1996. OASISS addresses invasive species and their pathways of spread by prioritizing management areas and species through multi-stakeholder cooperative coordination, and is actively involved in public education and outreach initiatives and community stewardship programs that involve on-the-ground action.

The Okanagan and Similkameen Invasive Species Society will deliver a third year of an ‘Invasive-Free Certification Program’ for landscapers, horticulturalists and earth-moving companies to help with habitat conservation and reduce the introduction, spread and establishment of invasive species in the South Okanagan. Invasive species are typically non-native species that have been introduced to British Columbia without their natural predators or diseases that would normally help keep them in check in their native habitats. Without their natural enemies, these invaders are able to rapidly out-compete native plants, ornamental species and agricultural crops.

Human development alters biologically important and sensitive landscapes that are valued for biodiversity when invasive plants are introduced, spread and then established and it makes habitat conservation more challenging. The program will promote invasive plant prevention and management into the practices of horticulture and landscape companies serving the South Okanagan through two invasive-free certification workshops and materials that highlight best management practices to avoid and minimize invasive plant impacts during construction, development and landscaping.

The benefits to this program will be seen throughout the region as invasive species can significantly reduce the quality and quantity of crops, increase the risk of wildfire, erosion, and can reduce land values. Bylaws also legally mandate landowners in the RDOS area to address and control noxious weeds, this program will educate those who provide landscaping and horticultural support to private and commercial landowners.

The third year of this project was approved by the Regional District Okanagan Similkameen Board and $12,779 was allocated from the South Okanagan Conservation Fund in 2020. The South Okanagan Conservation Fund dollars match funding from other sources as well as in-kind contributions. The project is expected to complete by January 31, 2021.

Okanagan Nation Alliance in partnership with the Penticton Indian Band

Okanagan Nation Alliance (ONA) formed in 1981 as the inaugural First Nations government in the Okanagan and among other functions, works to provide technical fisheries assistance for the Nation and its eight member communities, including the Penticton Indian Band, and acting as a liaison between federal and provincial fisheries agencies and other non-government organizations.

SnPink’tn (The Penticton Indian Band) represents one of the communities of the Okanagan Nation. SnPink’tn (The Penticton Indian Band) is located on beautiful bench land comprised of three reserves. “We are Syilx who receive our strength from timixw and encompass what is good for our livelihood. We are committed to our language and the teachings of our captiklxw and respect that everyone has value and purpose to come together as one.” (taken from the PIB website).

Trout Creek is the primary water source for the District of Summerland and is the largest community watershed in the Okanagan. The lower reach of Trout Creek was channelized and diked in 1949 and then further in 1973 for flood control. Channelization has rendered the creek less than ideal for fish (especially rainbow trout and sockeye salmon) and has disconnected the creek from the floodplain and degraded riparian habitat.

This year 1 project follows a seed funding proposal from last year, that began the planning and dialogue necessary to explore the optimal project design for naturalization that will improve fish and wildlife habitat for a lower reach of the creek, while improving creek stability and water quality and maintaining flood capacity. This year, the project will increase awareness for the importance of conservation in the area, build on the preliminary habitat assessments done in 2017-2018 through Colville Confederated Tribes with the Okanogan Sub-basin Habitat Improvement Program to improve habitat for fish and wildlife, targeting kokanee salmon and rainbow trout (resident and adfluvial), by naturalizing the creek with a series of meanders and riffles resulting in more natural fish passage and aesthetically pleasing area for the community. The project will undertake planning, steering committee, and local Traditional Ecological Knowledge meetings (Penticton Indian Band) and create engineered designs ready for construction. Final designs will be created which balance flood capacity needs and creating diverse stream and riparian habitat. Success will be measured based on achieving a collaborative plan that can be designed by and engineer and ready for construction so that tasks such as outreach and permitting can be completed. Planning for construction to occur in years 2 and 3.

The project was approved by the Regional District Okanagan Similkameen Board and $59,231 was allocated from the South Okanagan Conservation Fund in 2020. The South Okanagan Conservation Fund dollars match funding from other sources including from other private grants and foundations. The project is expected to complete by January 31, 2021.

The Nature Trust of British Columbia
The Nature Trust of British Columbia is the oldest and largest provincial land trust in BC. Since 1971, The Nature Trust along with partners has invested more than $95 million to secure over 70,000 hectares (175,000 acres) of land. NTBC owns 2700 hectares of habitat and holds livestock grazing licenses over another 36,000 hectares in the South Okanagan Similkameen area. Management of these lands are critically important, and include activities such as removing invasive plants, forest thinning, prescribed burning, and other initiatives. Partnership is key to the Nature Trust’s success.

Yellow flag iris is one of BC’ problematic aquatic invasive species. It occurs in shallow water along the riparian edges of streams, marshes and lakes, and once established, is known to negatively impact habitat for native species. Management and removal of yellow flag iris is challenging because of its persistence, and proximity to water bodies.
This project will engage land managers and volunteer organizations and train key individuals on the proper and effective methods to control yellow flag iris, including the use of physical barriers. This workshop will be conducted in the South Okanagan on The Nature Trust of BC property along the eastern shore of Vaseux Lake.