The Okanagan is home to a vast array of wildlife.
Unfortunately, however, the region also has the highest concentration of species at risk in all of British Columbia.
That’s why a local conservation group is looking to protect wildlife corridors in the valley.
“The Collaborative Conservation Program is a group of about 40 organizations that include all levels of government, environmental NGOs and UBC, ” Scott Boswell from the Okanagan Collaborative Conservation Program told Global News.
The conservation group is working on a biodiversity strategy for the region, part of which involves securing sections of a 68-km-long wildlife corridor, Boswell said.
The proposed ecological corridor would stretch from Okanagan Mountain Provincial Park all the way to Kalamalka Lake Provincial Park.
“It basically covers the grassland area and the ponderosa pine area that runs between the two parks,” Boswell said.
“The minimum width that we are looking for is one kilometre.”
Using funding obtained from Environment and Climate Change Canada, the group is currently working on an action plan for the area that will cover several topics.
“The action plan will be a guiding document for not only local governments and the provincial government but also for land owners so they can see the importance of the corridor,” Boswell explained.
Despite the fact that the corridor already exists, Boswell maintains that securing it will still have a substantial benefit for wildlife in the valley.
“It could have a great impact at maintaining the wildlife populations in the region because a lot of species we have here are at risk and that is critical habitat,” Boswell said.
Natural resource biologist Mary Ann Olson-Russello agrees, saying a protected corridor would benefit a great number of species that call the Okanagan home.
“Everything from American badgers to mule deer, white tail deer, moose, elk are great examples that will be using this corridor,” Olson-Russello said.
Olson-Russello stresses the importance of connectivity between the two major provincial parks, saying it can’t be underestimated.
“Because the Okanagan valley has such a big development, commercial and residential, it’s very difficult for these animals to be able to move between these larger protected areas,” Olson-Russello explained.
Boswell says that’s exactly what wil be needed to sustain wildlife populations into the future.
The Okanagan Collaborative Conservation Program hopes to have their action plan in place by the end of the year.