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Caring for the Land – “Pitching in to restore Ellis Creek”

Stewardship is the voluntary conservation and care of habitat and wildlife by landowners and community groups. Conservation organizations in the South Okanagan work with communities, schools, landowners and land managers to understand and care for nature on their lands, by providing information, technical support, and often “hands-on” help in conserving, restoring and enhancing natural areas.

There are over private 50 landowners in the Okanagan and Similkameen areas that work in partnership with a local stewardship society to care for approximately 3000 acres of wildlife habitat. These landowners are able to maintain agricultural, tourism and other practices while implementing best management practices for wildlife.

At Ellis Creek Basin in Penticton, stewardship and conservation organizations partnered with the TD Tree Days and the City of Penticton to restore the sensitive riparian area near the creek. Over 1000 plants have been planted here during two annual work bees that draw on the efforts of volunteers to bring back habitat for fish and wildlife that has been damaged.

Johanna Saaltink with daughter Elmie Saaltink and granddaughter Lia McKinnon

 

Three Generations of Adventurers

What do you love about the Okanagan? 

Johanna: I love the open spaces and the beautiful views.

Elmie: I love the colours. They’re very calming colours – the yellows, creams, blues. And I love the water, the contrast between the dry land and the water.

Lia: I love all the different habitat types. The fact that you can go from the lake to alpine meadows, wetlands and dry forest all within a short drive. There are so many amazing trails up in the mountains and so many opportunities to get outside and experience it all.

What do you worry about when you think about the Okanagan and the environment in the future? Why is a healthy environment important to you?

Johanna: For me the increase in population is a worry.

Elmie: There’s a lot of pressure to develop all the land that’s available. And that development happens in some very fragile habitats. I’m afraid that once it’s gone, it’s very, very difficult to get it back. Once it’s gone, it’s gone.

Lia: Grasslands or shrub steppes which are really endangered ecosystems tend to be seen as wastelands and there are a lot of species at risk that are dependent on those habitats. These are old growth systems of the desert so these plants are hundreds of years old and they require a certain lack of disturbance.

What do you think about a household levy of $10/average/year? What could the benefits of a South Okanagan Conservation Fund be?

Lia: I think it’s a great idea. Having those funds available is so helpful for local groups to leverage outside funds. If you collect $10 per household you can probably get $20 per household from federal and provincial sources and other organizations. Those matching contributions are significant, enough to take on bigger projects.

Elmie: I think about my children and grandchildren and I really believe the land doesn’t belong to us. We’re borrowing it from future generations. We should be taking care of it.

Long-time Okanagan resident

What do you love about the Okanagan? 

It’s the most beautiful landscape I’ve ever seen. It’s got colour, the hills, the open spaces, the blue sky and the clear air. I love everything about this place.

What do you worry about when you think about the Okanagan and the environment in the future? Why is a healthy environment important to you?

I have lived here for 16 years and I’ve seen incredible changes. There are more and more people coming here and we really have to start acting now. We have the most beautiful landscape I have ever seen. It’s so important we work together to preserve it. It’s important to develop a sense of stewardship especially among young people. People have to understand why they are preserving habitat so they can take steps in the future to make sure it survives.

What do you think about a household levy of $10/average/year? What could the benefits of a South Okanagan Conservation Fund be?

I think the $10 levy is extremely modest, I think it’s well within most people’s reach. It will also help leverage more money, and so it has even greater potential of doing a great deal of good.