A curlew on Napier Lake Ranch (Photo by Tim Ennis / NCC)

A curlew on Napier Lake Ranch (Photo by Tim Ennis / NCC)

Napier Lake Ranch Conservation Area

Napier Lake Ranch (Photo by Tim Ennis / NCC)

Napier Lake Ranch (Photo by Tim Ennis / NCC)

In the heart of the Nicola Valley, Napier Lake Ranch Conservation Area encompasses a mosaic of iconic native grassland habitats. Gently rolling hills covered in swaths of tall grasses hide the abundance of birds and other small animals that flourish here. Easier to spot are the hawks and falcons that circle in the sky above, searching for movement in the waving grasses below. Steep slopes give way to cliffs and rock outcrops, a favourite habitat for hibernating snakes and bats. Pockets of trembling aspen woodlands grow in the gullies here, providing shade and habitat for wildlife.

The Napier Lake Ranch Conservation Area occupies an important transition zone from mid-elevation grasslands to Douglas-fir forests. The variety of habitats provide movement corridors for animals shifting between summer and winter ranges.

Male sharp-tailed grouse (Photo by Rick Howie)

Male sharp-tailed grouse (Photo by Rick Howie)

The conservation area is strategically located along a flyway for many species of birds. It connects to other conservation properties both to the north and south across the Douglas Plateau. This large area is designated as an Important Bird Area for its diversity.

The Napier Lake Ranch Conservation Area is an exceptional piece of a rare ecosystem complex that is rapidly disappearing from British Columbia.

Conservation values

The Napier Lake Ranch Conservation Area supports many iconic grassland species and the fragile habitat they depend on.

  • The lands are used extensively by hawks and falcons, especially American kestrel and northern harrier.
  • Sharp-tailed grouse leks are found here. Leks, or dancing grounds, are special gathering sites for male grouse where they perform their spring mating dances for the females.
  • Long-billed curlews — rare shorebirds — migrate from their southern wintering grounds to breed in the grasslands of BC, including on the ranch.
  • The rich waters and marshland vegetation that border part of the property make it one of the most attractive locations for waterfowl in the chain of lakes along Highway 5A.
  • This project builds connectivity with the Nature Conservancy of Canada’s (NCC's) other conservation lands in the Heritage Grasslands Natural Area, including the Frolek Ranch covenants and the Warner Philip Conservation Area.

Ranching history

The Napier Lake Ranch Conservation Area also enjoys a long history as an active cattle ranch, dating back to 1873. The Jackson family has tended this land since 1974, when Agnes and her late husband, Roy, purchased the home ranch to pursue their dream of ranching.

When Agnes and Roy first acquired the land, the bunchgrass that blankets the landscape was only growing about three inches high — a mere shadow of the historic grasses that, “came up to a horse’s belly,” as noted on a local plaque celebrating the Nicola Valley as an “Empire of Grass.” But after four decades, Agnes and Roy’s careful range management encouraged the grasses to bounce back. Range agrologists have confirmed that the grasslands of Napier Lake Ranch are in good to excellent condition.

“It’s been quite a challenge to bring it back,” says Agnes. “This piece of land sustained my family. It has been so good to us.”

Now, after more than three decades of working and caring for the land, Agnes is looking to fulfill another dream of her family’s: to protect grasslands from development.

“Grasslands hold more endangered species than any other climatic zone,” says Agnes. “Keeping large tracts of land intact is really the only way to protect them. Cows, grouse and burrowing owls can all live together. We should encourage diversity, not monoculture.”

In protecting this land, Agnes and NCC also hope to help more people experience the beauty and vitality of the grasslands. NCC welcomes walk-in access to this conservation area.

“Grasslands are part of our natural heritage,” says Barb Pryce, NCC’s former Southern Interior program director. “Everyone should know what it feels like to stand out under the big sky while the grasses blow around you and the hawks circle above.”

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