The Nature Conservancy of Canada (NCC) and its partners have secured two sprawling grassland properties near Osoyoos in BC’s South Okanagan Valley.
The Sage and Sparrow Conservation Project features two distinct properties: Sagebrush Slopes and Sparrow Grasslands. Located on the Canada-US border, these properties are part of an international swath of rare grassland habitat. Both are crucial components of a migratory corridor for species moving between the desert areas of the western United States and the dry grasslands of interior BC.
Sagebrush Slopes is named for the fragrant bush that dominates the property and is one of the most extensive sagebrush landscapes in BC. Pockets of trembling aspen woodlands provide habitat for mule deer, ruffed grouse, magpies and a variety of cavity-nesting creatures. Two mouse species of conservation concern – the western harvest mouse and Great Basin pocket mouse – thrive here.
Sparrow Grasslands 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 canyon cuts through the southern portion of the property and features a natural spring that runs year-round.
Both properties share a significant portion of their borders 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.
Support for the Sage and Sparrow Conservation Project has come from the Government of Canada through the Natural Areas Conservation Program, Habitat Conservation Trust Foundation, Sitka Foundation, Dr. Sally Otto, Jean and Ken Finch, Okanagan Similkameen Parks Society, South Okanagan Naturalist Club, Oliver Osoyoos Naturalist Club and other individuals.
“These conservation lands show off South Okanagan grasslands at their best,” said Barb Pryce, Nature Conservancy of Canada’s Southern Interior program manager. “This project will benefit not only the many rare species that rely on this habitat, but also the people who live in and visit this beautiful valley and want to see it remain ecologically vibrant.”
“We are extremely happy that the land we call Horse Pasture will remain in open grasslands, undeveloped for future generations to enjoy as we have in the past,” said Clarence and Sharon Schneider, former owners of the land now called Sparrow Grasslands.
"This landmark project marks another achievement under our government's Natural Areas Conservation Program,” said Canada’s Environment Minister Peter Kent. “With this investment, we are taking real action to protect and conserve our country’s ecosystems for present and future generations.”
“The Habitat Conservation Trust Foundation is proud to have contributed to the conservation of one of Canada’s most endangered ecosystems,” said Harvey Andrusak, Chair of the HCTF Board of Directors. “Acquisitions of valuable habitats such as this one are critical to ensuring that British Columbia’s wildlife is enjoyed for generations to come.”
- 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.
- The Government of Canada’s Natural Areas Conservation Program is a $225 million investment to assist non-profit, non-government organizations to secure ecologically sensitive lands to ensure the conservation of our diverse ecosystems, wildlife and habitat. The Nature Conservancy of Canada has been entrusted to lead the program and has committed to raising matching funds for each federal dollar received.
Map and images
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|Locator map||Sagebrush Slopes (Photo by NCC)||Sparrow Grasslands (Photo by NCC)|
The Nature Conservancy of Canada is the nation's leading land conservation organization, working to protect our most important natural areas and the species they sustain. Since 1962, NCC and its partners have helped to protect more than 2.6 million acres (over 1 million hectares), coast to coast. More than one quarter of these acres are in British Columbia. www.natureconservancy.ca/bc
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