A new action plan has been launched to protect and restore a wildlife corridor on the east side of Okanagan Lake.
The Okanagan Nation Alliance and the Okanagan Collaborative Conservation Program (OCCP) have teamed up to create the plan to protect what they call a critical Okanagan wildlife corridor.
The action plan is designed to maintain an existing but threatened 65-kilometre-long ecological corridor between Okanagan Mountain Provincial Park and K’nmalka (the Kalamalka Lake Provincial Park area).
The groups call the corridor the last remaining connected low elevation route for wildlife movement on the east side of Okanagan Lake, which enables animals such as elk, mule deer, badgers and many others to move across the landscape to find food, shelter, water and mates.
“The continued pace of development in the Okanagan Valley has altered, destroyed and split up the low elevation natural areas,” says Dixon Terbasket, wildlife technician with Okanagan Nation Alliance, who adds this has had devastating effects on wildlife which have already been drastically impacted by colonization.
“If we don’t protect habitat for wildlife now, their numbers will continue to decline until they are gone forever,” Terbasket continued.
The action plan provides 15 actions to connect and protect the corridor. The actions aim to centre Syilx principles, laws and protocols in all connectivity planning efforts and incorporate climate impacts into conservation planning. It also aims to improve land use planning and policy to protect and restore the corridor, support stewardship efforts of farmers and ranchers, and provide education opportunities on the importance of habitat connectivity.
The Okanagan Nation Alliance and the OCCP worked with syilx community members, local governments, environmental organizations, the University of British Columbia and provincial agencies to develop the action plan to ensure it was informed by Syilx, local and expert knowledge.
“The corridor is home to rare, threatened, and endangered species and is a critical link and pinch point connecting local habitats to the South Okanagan into Washington State, the North Okanagan and beyond” says Scott Boswell, OCCP’s program manager. “The Okanagan Mountain – k’nmalka Corridor Action Plan is an important collaborative approach to protecting our region’s natural areas and wildlife.”
The action plan is the first of its kind in the Central Okanagan and aims to serve as a pilot program for protecting biodiversity across public and private lands for other regional, provincial and corridor initiatives.
The OCCP consists of 40 organizations that work to conserve and restore natural areas in the Central and North Okanagan.
To read the action plan, click here.
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