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.

Through this one-year project titled “Community Engagement in Skaha Lake Park Restoration” Okanagan Similkameen Stewardship will restore sensitive habitat at Skaha Lake Park that supports local wildlife and species at risk and engage the community of Penticton in environmental understanding and resource stewardship in the South Okanagan.  In our experience, while simple one-off planting projects with native trees and shrubs are efficient in getting plants in the ground, these projects are rarely successful and meaningful over the long term, nor do they build community support for conservation, or a particular natural area. By providing many opportunities for the public to participate in a project, the community around Skaha Lake Park will take ownership of the conservation of the wetland habitat at the east boundary of the park. Having community participation will also ensure long-term sustainability of our efforts. Partnership with a nearby middle school not only builds community support but encourages young people to become conservation champions for the park. This park is managed by municipal government, the areas to be restored are largely turf but are not well used by the public and are ideal restoration locations.

This project is a one-year request. Approved by Regional District Okanagan Similkameen Board and $20,000 was allocated from the South Okanagan Conservation Fund in 2022. The project is expected to complete by January 31, 2023.

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.

Southern Interior Land Trust in Partnership with Strata K551, Lower Twin (Nipit) Lake

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.

In 2018 our strata on Twin Lake flooded. Emergency services brought in 220 truckloads of gravel and rock to protect 9 homes from flooding. When the water retreated, about 100 truck loads were taken away. The flooding and the flood prevention works left the land degraded and has impacted the health of Twin Lake, leaving the riparian area devoid of desired vegetation.

Our primary goal is to return as much of the strata lakeside to a more natural state as practical, as suggested in our Love Your Lakes property report. Our challenges are to educate the various strata members about lake health and convince them of the benefits of naturalization to speed recovery of our lakeshore and to help contribute to lake health. So far, we have found the LYL property reports and information to be an excellent resource.  Our project partner (SILT) is committed to helping with outreach, educational resources, and advice.

This project is a one-year request. Approved by Regional District Okanagan Similkameen Board and $7,575 was allocated from the South Okanagan Conservation Fund in 2022. The project is expected to complete by January 31, 2023.

Okanagan Nation Alliance

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.

This improvement to the Ellis Creek Basin project will support spring spawning habitat and is important for conserving salmonids and floodplain species in the area. This project will overall benefit the South Okanagan Region because this area has the only remaining continuous piece of floodplain restorable in Penticton without major infrastructure changes, and is the only section of the channel where a refuge pool of significant size and connected to sufficient riparian buffer and Is the only remaining area of land in Penticton which offers unimpeded connection between the river and riparian area, grassland, and upper montane habitat, and subsequently the ability to restore land/water river nutrient cycling. This site Is also under indigenous stewardship in perpetuity, and part of an eco-cultural education program for all residents of the Okanagan.

This project is a one-year request. Approved by Regional District Okanagan Similkameen Board and $21,349 was allocated from the South Okanagan Conservation Fund in 2022. The project is expected to complete by January 31, 2023.

Okanagan and Similkameen Invasive Species Society (OASISS)

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.

In the Okanagan-Similkameen, there is a lack of educational programming for youth regarding invasive species. Most climate change and environmental related literature indicate that education is paramount as the first step in addressing environmental issues. Youth play a pivotal role in developing solutions. As such, this proposal attempts to address the problem of a lack of locally developed curriculum content around invasive species in the South Okanagan. This is of interest to local teachers, as demonstrated by feedback received by the proponent at a recent Pro-D event held at Skaha Bluffs (Sept.27, 2021).

This project is the first year of a 2-year request. Approved by Regional District Okanagan Similkameen Board and $18,000 was allocated from the South Okanagan Conservation Fund in 2022. The project is expected to complete by January 31, 2023.

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.

This project increases restoration efforts on NCC’s Osoyoos Oxbows Conservation Area (OOCA), a crucial piece of South Okanagan valley bottom habitat. OOCA includes critical habitat for the federally listed Great Basin spadefoot, western tiger salamander, Great Basin gophersnake, desert nightsnake and pallid bat. Other federally listed species observed on the property include bobolink, long-billed curlew and western painted turtle.

This project is the first year of a 3-year request. Approved by Regional District Okanagan Similkameen Board and $22,850 was allocated from the South Okanagan Conservation Fund in 2022. The project is expected to complete by January 31, 2023.

Osoyoos Desert Society

The Osoyoos Desert Society is a nonprofit charitable organization founded in 1991 to conserve the rich, biologically diverse habitats of British Columbia’s southern interior.  Through its conservation, restoration and education efforts, the Osoyoos Desert Centre strives to generate public knowledge, respect and active concern for these fragile and endangered ecosystems.

Antelope-brush ecosystems support habitat for over 42 species that are listed at risk nationally, and these ecosystems themselves are globally imperiled and at risk. In Canada, almost all of Antelope-brush plant communities occur in the Regional District Okanagan Similkameen. Over 68% of antelope-brush habitat has been destroyed by urban and agricultural development and only 13% of what remains has been formally protected.

This project will develop a conservation and restoration action plan and establish a coordinated action team for implementation. This project is the second year of a 3-year request. Approved by Regional District Okanagan Similkameen Board and $18,871 was allocated from the South Okanagan Conservation Fund in 2022. The project is expected to complete by January 31, 2023.

Thompson Rivers University (TRU) in partnership with the Province of BC

TRU is a comprehensive, learner-centred, sustainable university that serves its regional, national, and international learners and their communities through high quality and flexible education, training, research and scholarship. The principal investigator on this project will be Karl Larsen, who is professor in wildlife ecology and management in the Department of Natural Resource Sciences at Thompson Rivers University. Larsen has been conducting ecological and conservation work on small, terrestrial vertebrates for over 30 years, he has had six MSc students conduct thesis work on conservation threats facing rattlesnakes in the Okanagan, including two focusing on the White Lake situation.

Snakes and other reptiles are susceptible to being killed on roads. In fact, road mortality is one of the most significant threats facing many species at risk in the South Okanagan. Under-road tunnels (‘ecopassages’) are seen as an important solution, yet these structures are expensive and their effectiveness for many species is unknown. This is a particularly critical issue in the South Okanagan where road expansion and traffic volumes will continue as the region attracts more residents and visitors. This project will assess the response of rattlesnakes (a species at risk) 4 other at-risk reptile and amphibian species to underpassages that are currently deployed in the White Lake Basin. The project will provide recommendations for improvements for underpasses to increase their effectiveness for reducing roadkill for species that are at risk and susceptible.

This project builds on previous years of research in the White Lake Basin. This year 2 of 3 request was approved by Regional District Okanagan Similkameen Board and $29,600 was allocated from the South Okanagan Conservation Fund in 2022. The South Okanagan Conservation Fund dollars are matching significant confirmed funding from other sources. The project is expected to complete by January 31, 2023.