Habitat Stewardship and Enhancement in the Okanagan and Similkameen Valleys

Project by the Okanagan Similkameen Stewardship Society.

Location: Okanagan Basin, Okanagan and Similkameen valleys
(Enderby, Armstrong, Vernon, Lumby Coldstream, Kelowna, Oyama, Lake Country, West Kelowna, Peachland, Summerland, Penticton, Naramata, Okanagan Falls, Oliver, Osoyoos, Keremeos, Cawston, Princeton, Bridesville)

For more information on this project, please contact Alyson Skinner, Executive Director, Penticton, BC.

Purpose

The mission of Okanagan Similkameen Stewardship is to support voluntary stewardship of important habitat on private lands and within communities of the Okanagan and Similkameen, and to provide information and assistance to private land stewards and community groups on habitat conservation, restoration and protection.

The Okanagan Basin is known for its varied landscapes, wildlife diversity and rare plants and animals. Many of Canada’s most vulnerable species and ecosystems are found in the Okanagan and it is considered one of Canada’s four most endangered ecosystems. The area’s high biodiversity values and wildlife are threatened by urban and agricultural development, invasive weeds, and fire suppression.  The impacts of climate change and loss of habitat connectivity exacerbate these threats.  In the Okanagan Region, approximately 85% of wetland and riparian habitats have been lost and supporting stewardship of remaining areas is essential.

Habitat Stewardship in the Okanagan and Similkameen Valleys builds on over 20 years of stewardship in the region. With emphasis on wetland habitats and shoreline buffers, this project will:

  1. Conserve habitats on private land and within communities that support wildlife in the Okanagan and Similkameen valleys of BC by engaging landowners, user groups and communities in habitat stewardship.
  2. Restore and enhance habitats that support wildlife in the Okanagan and Similkameen valleys of BC through development and maintenance of habitat enhancement projects including exclusion fencing, native plant re-vegetation and invasive plant management.
  3. Promote and engage private landowners and communities in environmental understanding and resource stewardship.

Long-term conservation impacts and benefits

  • 10 year conservation agreements will be negotiated.
  • Increase in area of wetlands and waterfowl habitat.
  • Existing wetland and waterfowl habitat will be more functional (eg. Increase in food plants, filtration of pollutants/improved water quality).
  • Any landowners interested in permanent conservation options will be provided with support and assistance.
  • Increased knowledge/understanding and behavior changes by individuals engaged in outreach aspects of this project.

New tools, methodologies, landscape practices or protocols

This project will implement the principles of landowner contact as described in the Stewardship Centre of BCs landowner contact guide.  We will also implement Written Stewardship/Management Agreements which will outline best management practices that have been developed for habitats and species.  Each agreement is tailored to each individual property.

We will also develop local citizen science involvement through training of citizen scientists in species identification, data collection and reporting.

Stewardship

Conservation – Land stewardship: stewardship agreement, land management plan, written management plan, citizen science engagement and training/monitoring wildlife populations.

Enhancement – re-vegetation and seeding, invasive plant management from wetland and riparian areas, installing nest boxes, enhancing nesting areas, delaying harvest when nesting birds present, reducing/eliminating pesticide use, reducing water use and water conservation initiatives, installation of coarse woody debris

Restoration – wetland and pond creation projects where there is a willing landowner and appropriate site, native plant restoration where project site is completely denuded of native plants