Spotlight on Species and Habitats
The Okanagan and Similkameen Valleys form a unique region within Canada. The hot summers and mild winters combined with many different ecosystems make this area ideal for wildlife. As our valley’s population grows, groups like OSCA are working to ensure that people value these natural assets so that future generations can enjoy them too. Spotlight articles give examples and more details on threatened and endangered species found in each habitat.
Grasslands are the most common natural landscape in the Okanagan, with bunchgrass and sagebrush as the dominant plants. Nationally, grasslands are one of Canada’s most endangered landscapes. More than half of our province’s species at risk live in grasslands. This habitat has been heavily impacted by human development. Invasive weeds are also negatively impacting grasslands.
Stream and River Bank Habitat
Also called “riparian-areas”, the water-loving plants and trees alongside lakes and rivers provide shade and nursery grounds for fish like Kokanee. The roots of riverside plants keep the banks from eroding during floods and protect water quality by filtering surface water runoff. These ribbons of green habitat support a rich diversity of wildlife and are important wildlife corridors. If your property includes a riparian area, you should become familiar with the Riparian Areas Regulation, or RAR, that applies to planning new structures.
Lakes and Rivers
The Okanagan is a small watershed so water conservation is important. Our lakes and rivers provide the majority of our drinking water so human health is related to the health of our lakes and watercourses. It is important to control sediments and chemicals from entering storm sewers, and to be aware of runoff from lawn fertilizers and pesticides which can enter lakes. If you are planning work such as building a dock or bridge within a water body, you must have a permit to conduct “instream works” under the Water Act.
Ponds, cattail marshes and seasonally-flooded fields are all different types of wetlands. These areas are full of life in the summer with birds, amphibians, and insects. In our dry climate, wetlands have always been rare and are disappearing at an alarming rate with development and climate change. If you have wetlands on your property make special provisions to protect these sensitive areas.
Forests are important in stabilizing the soil along the steep valley walls of our valley, thereby reducing erosion and sedimentation. They are also home to two thirds of Canada’s plants and wildlife, including larger mammals. Last but not least, the woody debris under trees is home for a host of small reptiles, amphibians, mammals and insects.
The rocky slopes and cliff talus that form the shoulders of our local mountains are important wildlife corridors used in all seasons of the year. Many animals need to pass back and forth between the hillsides and the surrounding grasslands. If you property is near this terrain, consider protecting a wildlife corridor that provides access between the hills and the lower habitat areas.