Sage and Sparrow Conservation Area
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 (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 (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)
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)
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.
Please tread lightly on these lands. No camping, fires or vehicles are permitted in this sensitive conservation area.
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:
- Government of Canada through the Natural Areas Conservation Program
- Habitat Conservation Trust Foundation
- Sitka Foundation
- BC Conservation Foundation
- The W. Garfield Weston Foundation
- Okanagan Similkameen Parks Society
- South Okanagan Naturalists' Club
- Oliver Osoyoos Naturalist Club
- Okanagan Region Wildlife Heritage Fund Society
- Burrowing Owl Winery
- Dr. Sally Otto
- Jean and Ken Finch
- Robert Foord
- Ellen Almond Stuart
- Dr. Eric Grace
- Estate of Thomas T. Forbes
- and many other individuals