Sparrow Grasslands, South Okanagan Similkameen, BC (Photo by NCC)

Sparrow Grasslands, South Okanagan Similkameen, BC (Photo by NCC)

Sage and Sparrow Conservation Area

Grasshopper sparrow (Photo by Jerry Oldnettel)

Grasshopper sparrow (Photo by Jerry Oldnettel)

The Sage and Sparrow Conservation Area is a truly magnificent and nationally significant project in the South Okanagan Similkameen. The 3,440-acre (1,390-hectare) conservation area sits on the Canada-U.S. border near Osoyoos and protects part of an international swath of rare grassland habitat. Sage and Sparrow is a crucial component of a migratory corridor for species moving between the desert areas of the western United States and the dry grasslands of interior BC.

The conservation area was created through the acquisition of four connected properties located soutwest of Osoyoos. Each property brings distinct features to the overall conservation area, creating a world-class refuge for many rare and endangered grassland species.

Sagebrush Slopes (Photo by Dick Cannings)

Sagebrush Slopes (Photo by Dick Cannings)

Sagebrush Slopes (protected 2012) is named for the fragrant bush that dominates the property, making it one of the most extensive sagebrush landscapes in BC. Pockets of trembling aspen woodlands flourish in the gullies on the property, providing covering habitat for mule deer, ruffed grouse, magpies and a variety of cavity-nesting creatures. Two mouse species of conservation concern — western harvest mouse and Great Basin pocket mouse — thrive here.

Sparrow Grasslands, BC (Photo by NCC)

Sparrow Grasslands, BC (Photo by NCC)

Sparrow Grasslands (protected 2012) is notable for the abundance of bird species — including at least seven species of sparrow — that frequent the area. The rolling hills of the property are covered in grasses and wildflowers, offering a significant contrast to Sagebrush Slopes. A magnificent canyon cuts through the southern portion of the property and features a natural spring that runs year-round. Standing atop a viewpoint at the edge of the canyon, visitors are treated to a spectacular view of the Similkameen Valley south into the U.S.

Burrowing owl (Photo by Don Dabbs)

Burrowing owl (Photo by Don Dabbs)

South Block (protected 2014) contains a rich mosaic of natural habitats that range from fields of sagebrush, open grasslands and rocky outcrops to dry interior forests and trembling aspen gullies. Small lakes are home to rare species such as spadefoot toad and tiger salamanders. South Block hosts a burrowing owl reintroduction program, and thanks to the efforts of the Burrowing Owl Conservation Society of BC, the charismatic birds can once again be seen here in the summer.

Kit Carr, Sage and Sparrow Conservation Area (Photo by NCC)

Kit Carr, Sage and Sparrow Conservation Area (Photo by NCC)

The diverse lands of Kit Carr (protected 2015) include grasslands, dry forests, a 10-acre (4-hectare) lake, aspen forests and gullies. All of these ecological systems are under significant threat of development and conversion to agricultural systems in the South Okanagan Similkameen region. Kit Carr Lake is a rare and important feature in this region, providing critical habitat for waterfowl and at-risk species such as Great Basin spadefoot, western painted turtle and western tiger salamander.

Since inaugurating the Sage and Sparrow Conservation Area
in 2012, we have documented 52 species at risk on these lands. 

Visit Sage and Sparrow

We welcome you to come out and explore Sage and Sparrow by foot. There is an easy to moderate network of trails that you can follow to discover the incredible richness of this grassland treasure.

Map to Sage and Sparrow >

Please tread lightly on these lands. No camping, fires or vehicles are permitted in this sensitive conservation area. 

Conservation context

The Sage and Sparrow Conservation Area supports many iconic South Okanagan species and the fragile habitat on which they depend:

Habitats: native bluebunch wheatgrass and sagebrush grasslands, trembling aspen gullies, rugged terrain, wetlands, pine and fir forest

Species at risk: Lewis's woodpecker, grasshopper sparrow, Brewer's sparrow, pallid bat, fringed myotis, western rattlesnake, gopher snake, American badger, half moon hairstreak butterfly, western yellowbelly racer, cocks-comb cat's-eye, burrowing owl, Lyall's mariposa lily, flat-topped broomrape

Other notable wildlife: black bear, lazuli bunting, Columbian bitterroot, western meadowlark, mule deer

Sage and Sparrow Conservation Area shares a significant portion of its border with the South Okanagan Grasslands Protected Area, forming an integral habitat link between protected areas that allow for the movement of species between the Similkameen and Okanagan Valleys.

This grassland ecosystem is one of the four most endangered ecosystems in Canada.

The area is home to a diverse range of amphibian, reptile, bird and mammal species, some of which occur nowhere else in Canada, nor in the world.

The project area forms part of the Kilpoola Lake Important Bird Area as designated by IBA Canada.

The sparrow and other bird populations on Sparrow Grasslands have been extensively researched by the Canadian Wildlife Service, providing a wealth of ecological data that will further conservation management efforts.

Partners in conservation

We are grateful for the support of many groups and individuals who have supported this world-class conservation initiative, including:

8 comments

  • Anonymous August 30, 2015 - 4:47
    Particularly interested in Sage and Sparrows and upcoming (hopefully) National Park.

  • Nature Conservancy of Canada May 15, 2015 - 4:35
    Thanks for letting us know about this access issue Dan. You were right and the rope should be removed now. There will be signs on this new property soon!

  • Dan May 03, 2015 - 12:34
    Tried to visit Kit Carr last week but the road has been blocked off with a cable and signed no trespassing. I believe I have it right, this is the right turn one kilometre past Blue Lake. I have looked closely at the map and can't see that I'm making a mistake.

  • Cornice Environmental March 24, 2015 - 11:15
    We thoroughly enjoyed an early spring hike through this area a few days ago. The signs of spring poking up among the sagebrush slopes was a real treat. We will be back for more discovery!

  • Nature Conservancy of Canada May 07, 2014 - 3:39
    Visitors to Sage and Sparrow are welcome to walk along the existing trails (old roads) that wind through the conservation area. You can find directions to the site at the map link above. It's a fantastic place for a day hike!

  • Anonymous March 29, 2014 - 12:25
    This is fantastic!! Looking forward to hearing more about the hiking trails!

  • Anonymous March 28, 2014 - 4:31
    Please include on any new lands being acquired for hiking & viewing.

  • Anonymous March 28, 2014 - 8:51
    Congratulations and many thanks. I will be hiking the grasslands this summer! What a jewel, I'm sure.

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