March 28, 2017 6:46 pm
Updated: March 28, 2017 9:06 pm

Wetland acquisition in south Okanagan aims to restore natural habitat

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A wetland in Oliver, considered crucial to the local ecosystem and internationally renowned for bird watching, will now be preserved for decades to come.

“It’s been really important to the conservation community and the south Okanagan to bring it into the hands of conservation. We didn’t want to see it developed to homes or anything like that,” Barb Pryce with the Nature Conservancy of Canada said.

The non-profit conservation group purchased the 36 hectare property near highway 97 and road 22 from a private landowner.

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The project, aimed at reversing habitat loss through restoration, costs $1.9 million.

A major concern for conservationists is that an estimated 85 per cent of valley-bottom wetlands in the Okanagan have been lost to urban and agricultural development.

“There will be less haying, less livestock, you’ll see this area come back as a really beautiful, functional wetland,” Bryn White, with the South Okanagan Similkameen conservation program, said.

White said wetlands also function as the “recharge and filtration” of the water system.

“If you drink water, or use water on your farm, or you like to swim in the lake, it’s really critically important to every single one of us,” she said.

Bird watchers from around the world come to see the diversity of birds that use this area for breeding, nesting, hunting and as a migration stopover.

The organization said notable birds found in the area include the only breeding population of bobolinks in the Okanagan Valley, long-billed curlew and yellow-breasted chat.

All of these species have been designated species at risk.

Ducks Unlimited Canada, another nonprofit organization, co-owns the land.

The groups said the restoration program to conserve the birder’s paradise will begin soon.

© 2017 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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