Conservation acquisition along the Okanagan River aims to reverse habitat loss in internationally important wetland area
The Nature Conservancy of Canada (NCC) has announced the conservation of a 36.4-hectare (90-acre) wetland property in the heart of one of British Columbia's best birding areas. Located along the Okanagan River in an expanse of wetland known as the Osoyoos Oxbows, the new conservation area is the latest addition to a complex of conservation lands that parallel Highway 97 between Osoyoos and Oliver.
The property contains some of the last remaining marshes in an area that was once a significant chain of wetlands. The Osoyoos Oxbows is recognized as an Important Bird Area for the diversity of birds that use these lands for breeding, nesting, hunting and as a critical migration stopover.
Notable birds found in this area include the only breeding population of bobolinks in the Okanagan Valley, long-billed curlew and yellow-breasted chat. All of these species have been designated species at risk by the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada (COSEWIC).
This project will include the restoration of some of the property's agricultural fields to more natural wetlands, mirroring the recent restoration of adjacent conservation lands by NCC and Ducks Unlimited Canada (DUC). Recreating historic oxbow channels will allow wetland species, such as the western painted turtle, Great Basin spadefoot and blotched tiger salamander (all COSEWIC-designated species at risk), to relocate from nearby areas.
A key partner in NCC's work in the Osoyoos Oxbows is Ducks Unlimited Canada. In addition to contributing funds to purchase this land, DUC is also a co-title holder and will collaborate with restoration work on the site.
Many funders contributed to the success of this project, including the Government of Canada through the Natural Areas Conservation Program, Habitat Conservation Trust Foundation, British Columbia Conservation Foundation, Oliver-Osoyoos Naturalists' Club, South Okanagan Naturalists' Club, Okanagan Similkameen Parks Society, Burrowing Owl Winery and many individuals.
“The many partners who are engaged in conserving and restoring the Osoyoos Oxbows are a testament to how important this natural area is,” said Barb Pryce, Southern Interior program director, Nature Conservancy of Canada. This new conservation area we are celebrating today has been of interest to the conservation community for a long time, and NCC is excited to begin restoring some of the original wetlands on the site.”
“I like knowing that NCC is going to look after this land, for the curlews and other birds,” said Jimmy Pendergraft, former landowner. “This land has been important to my family for a long time.”
"This project builds on our prior investments and adjacent projects such as the Bobolink Meadows project, where Ducks Unlimited Canada and our partners secured and restored some of the former oxbow floodplain wetlands,” said Dan Buffett, Manager of Provincial Operations, BC, for Ducks Unlimited Canada. “This project brings DUC, our partners and the community closer to a vision of restoring the full function of these wetlands."
“I want to congratulate the Nature Conservancy of Canada and thank its many donors and partners for helping to make today's announcement possible,” said Catherine McKenna, Minister of Environment and Climate Change. “The Government of Canada is proud to support their habitat conservation efforts through the Natural Areas Conservation Program. Working together, we will conserve important wetland habitat for many bird and wildlife species.”
“Today, we've acquired another key piece of the landscape conservation puzzle,” said Ross Peck, chair of the Habitat Conservation Trust Foundation. “We prioritize funding land acquisitions that benefit multiple species and connect multiple habitats through the collaborative efforts of our conservation partners. The securement and restoration of this property will have lasting benefits for Okanagan wildlife.”
- This acquisition builds on existing conservation lands owned by the Nature Conservancy of Canada, Ducks Unlimited Canada and The Nature Trust of British Columbia, and is connected to the South Okanagan Wildlife Management Area (Province of British Columbia).
- The new conservation area is co-owned by the Nature Conservancy of Canada and Ducks Unlimited Canada.
- Oxbows are wetland channels that have been cut off from the main river; the Osoyoos Oxbows are remnants from the original path of the Okanagan River, which was straightened in the 1950s to control flooding.
- These wetland areas were largely filled in for agriculture in the mid-20th century. NCC and DUC are in the process of restoring some of the original wetlands in the Osoyoos Oxbows area.
- Like all wetlands, oxbows are very biologically productive, providing shelter, food and reproductive habitat for a huge number and variety of species.
- The Osoyoos Oxbows is a popular birdwatching area, attracting large numbers of visitors every year.
- An estimated 85 per cent of valley-bottom wetlands in the Okanagan have been lost to urban and agricultural development.
Video available for download via Vimeo > (password: media)
The Nature Conservancy of Canada is Canada's leading not-for-profit private land conservation organization, working to protect our most important natural areas and the plants and animals they sustain. Since 1962, NCC has helped to protect more than 1.1 million hectares (2.8 million acres) across the country, including almost 400,000 hectares (1 million acres) in British Columbia.
The Government of Canada's Natural Areas Conservation Program (NACP) is a unique public-private partnership managed and directed by the Nature Conservancy of Canada (NCC). To date, $345 million has been invested in the NACP by the Government of Canada to secure our natural heritage. Additionally, more than $500 million in matching contributions has been raised by NCC and its partners.
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