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Nearly 30 hectares purchased in South Okanagan to protect bighorn sheep

The land is home to bighorn sheep. It features grasslands, open forests and rocky terrain. Nature Trust of B.C.

A non-profit organization in B.C. has purchased nearly 30 hectares of ecologically important land in the South Okanagan to protect it from potential development.

The Nature Trust of British Columbia says the habitat purchase encompasses 29.2 hectares (72 acres) south of Penticton, with the land providing valuable habitat for several species at risk.

The land, now part of Nature Trust’s Skaha Lake Eastside conservation complex, is home to bighorn sheep. It features grasslands, open forests and rocky terrain.

“The Skaha Lake Eastside conservation complex adds important habitat for bighorn sheep for foraging, lambing and escaping predators,” said Nature Trust, adding that the South Okanagan is irreversibly losing native grasslands due to human development.

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“Bighorn sheep are a species of provincial concern in British Columbia. They depend on mixed habitat to survive including cliffs, grasslands, and escape terrain,” said Nature Trust.

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The organization said that human pressures on the animal’s habitat have reduced their presence in the Okanagan, with their grassland habitat experiencing “degradation, fragmentation and outright loss.”

“Increased human activity has disrupted their movements, decreased population size, and increased their susceptibility to disease.”

Click to play video: 'Nature Trust doubling protected areas by 2023'
Nature Trust doubling protected areas by 2023

The Okanagan conservation land manager for Nature Trust, Nicholas Burdock, said, “the east side of Skaha Lake represents some of the most iconic and spectacular vistas and terrain the Okanagan has to offer.”

Nature Trust added that the area is also home to the Pallid bat (a threatened species), American badger (endangered), Lewis’s woodpecker (threatened), Western screech owl (threatened), desert night snake (endangered), western rattlesnake (threatened) and great basin gopher snake (threatened).

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“Protecting properties like Skaha Lake Eastside, with complex and sensitive ecosystems that support many at-risk species, is one of our top conservation priorities,” said Nature Trust of B.C. CEO Jasper Lament.

“When we save habitat for bighorn sheep, we also protect numerous other species at risk.”

Click to play video: 'Popular BC vacation destination protects critical wetland habitat'
Popular BC vacation destination protects critical wetland habitat

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