Habitat Stewardship in the Okanagan Basin, 2014-15
Goals and Objectives
The success of landowner contact initiatives comes from building long-term, positive relationships with landowners. “Habitat Stewardship in the Okanagan Basin” builds on nearly 20 years of stewardship of the SOS Stewardship Program.
Our focus is to support key landowners in voluntary stewardship agreements and provide them with information related to their interests and conservation concerns, while working with communities to address geographic issues. Our Program objectives and activities include:
- Conserve habitats on private land and within local communities that support fish and wildlife in the Okanagan and Similkameen valleys of British Columbia.
i. Support existing Wildlife Habitat Stewards and engage new landowners in these written management agreements.
ii. Engage communities in conservation of habitats in their geographic region.
- Restore and enhance habitats that support fish and wildlife in the Okanagan and Similkameen valleys of British Columbia.
i. Support landowners and community groups in development and maintenance of habitat enhancement projects.
- Promote and engage private landowners and communities in environmental understanding and resource stewardship.
The Okanagan Similkameen Stewardship Society was formed with the mission to cooperatively promote the voluntary stewardship of important habitat on private lands and within communities of the Okanagan and Similkameen valleys as well as to provide information and assistance to private land stewards and community groups on habitat conservation, restoration and protection. This important project will support landowners and community stewardship groups within the communities and rural areas throughout the Okanagan Basin.
The Okanagan Basin is an exceptional place, 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 voluntary stewardship is key to “keeping nature in our future” in the Okanagan. This region has long been recognized as one of Canada’s four most endangered ecosystems. The area’s high biodiversity values and wildlife are threatened by urban and agricultural development, agricultural practices (such as farming of domestic sheep), invasive weeds, and fire supression. 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 so stewardship of these existing areas is essential.
Private lands account for approximately thirty percent of the area’s land base and are concentrated in Valley bottoms as is valuable waterfowl habitat. Well informed and supported stewardship efforts on those private lands are essential if conservation targets are to be met. Without support from a stewardship program, landowners are less likely to take on habitat enhancement and rehabilitation and could make misinformed land use decisions that are detrimental to habitat and wildlife. Over time, their stewardship ethic may be eroded and long-term conservation opportunities would be missed.
Specific Habitat Products/Results Supported by WHC’s Contributions
WHC’s contribution will focus on conserving, enhancing and managing wetland and riparian habitats with a focus on working with landowners towards developing and maintaining stewardship agreements (short-term securement) on private land and within communities of the Okanagan Basin.
Relevance to Habitat Planning, Decision Making and/or Management
Okanagan Similkameen Stewardship Society will contact local land owners and managers with waterfowl and wildlife habitats and assist them in developing management plans and agreements on each individual property. We then monitor each agreement and plan to ensure that key tasks are implemented in order to improve and enhance habitats.
We also work with groups of landowners to take on a conservation project in their neighbourhood. We connect these stewardship groups to area directors and decision makers as required in order to meet the needs of each individual within the community.
Our work is done under advice of an advisory council of Wildlife Biologists, Conservation collective programs including the SOSCP and OCCP and we work in collaboration with local initiatives including environmental farm planners, naturalist clubs, community groups and planners in order to ensure that each issue is addressed by the most effective solution.
- Okanagan Falls,
- West Kelowna,
- Lake Country,
Landscape type: Okanagan Basin, including wetland, riparian areas, lakes, grasslands, rugged terrain and open forest habitats.
For more information on this project, please contact Alyson Skinner, Stewardship Coordinator, Okanagan Similkameen Stewardship Society, Penticton (BC).