More than $400,000 is being handed out to seven conservation projects in the South Okanagan thanks to the newly developed South Okanagan Conservation Fund.
This is the first allotment of grants being handed out by the Regional District Okanagan-Smilkameen since funds started to be collected from taxpayers in 2017. All residents in the RDOS, except those that live in the Similkameen, pay towards the fund.
Fifteen applications were received and reviewed by a technical advisory committee before being presented to the board.
One of the more discussed grants awarded was given to the Nature Trust of B.C. The board awarded Nature Trust $200,000 to purchase 32.2 hectares (79.56 acres) of private land to add to its White Lake Basin Biodiversity Ranch.
The private property is surrounded by 8,056 hectares, already a part of the ranch. The property is near the community of Twin Lakes and is home to a number of species at risk. The Nature Trust has worked with the landowner over the last 10 years to secure the property. A purchase of sale agreement was negotiated in 2018 with an anticipated closing date of October 2018.
Andrew Jakubeit, Mayor of Penticton, voted against giving Nature Trust $200,000.
“Basically, it’s a lot of money to spend on one project and there might have been other funding options available to Nature Trust. I felt like maybe we could have given them a portion,” he said.
Other projects receiving grants this year are:
The En’owkin Centre/Penticton Indian Band will receive $57,755 to secure and protect a parcel of land currently owned by a locatee adjacent to the Okanagan River Channel and the City of Penticton.
The money will be used to obtain a Certificate of Possession on the parcel which is 2.29 hectares (5.66 acres) in size.
“Benefits to the region include water quality and quantity, protection of natural floodplain habitats; sensitive terrestrial ecosystems; habitat for native plants and wildlife including critical habitat for multiple species at-risk and species of cultural significance to the Syilx (Okanagan) people; opportunities for future habitat restoration and enhancement; connectivity and vital wildlife movement corridors along the urban and rural wild-land interface; support for future public cultural and environmental outreach and education projects and programs that benefit the broader South Okanagan community; and advance reconciliation with Penticton Indian Band members and all Okanagan people,” the report stated.
Two inter-connected fish habitat restoration projects in Penticton Creek being headed by the Okanagan Nation Alliance and the Penticton Indian Band received $40,260.
The project will restore natural spawning and rearing areas for Sockeye, Kokanee, Steelhead and Rainbow Trout and also reconnect the adjacent historic floodplain for native Chinook and wildlife including federally and/or provincially listed species on the ECOmmunity Place Locatee Lands Floodplain.
The report stated that channelization in the 1950s reduced salmon spawning opportunities in the Penticton Channel section of the Okanagan River.
The Okanagan Nation Alliance and the Penticton Indian Band also received $50,000 to redesign the current sediment catchment basin in Ellis Creek with a goal of creating a fish passage year round and opening up four kilometres of potential salmon spawning habitat.
The Ellis Creek sediment catchment basin was built near the creek’s mouth in the 1950s.
“The catchment basin is bounded by a constructed rock weir that is not passable by fish species year round, and the need for ongoing sediment extraction is expensive, and negatively impacts the intream and adjacent riparian vegetation,” the report stated.
The Okanagan Similkameen Stewardship Society received $38,000 to engage residents throughout the region about voluntary stewardship and ways to enhance sensitive habitats.
“This project will empower and engage local residents in taking on conservation and stewardship projects in their neighbourhoods. The activities will engage at least 30 stewards in improving the management of over 1,000 acres and enhance and restore over 50 acres of wildlife habitats,” the release stated.
OASISS received $6,415 to offer an Invasive-Free Certification Program for landscapers, horticulturists, and earth moving companies. The goal is to educate and decrease the introduction, spread and establishment of invasive species in the South Okanagan.
OSCA/OCBP received $7,841.68 to develop workshops for agriculture and related industries to learn about species at risk and develop ways of protecting habitat. The money will also be used to develop another workshop aimed at to target industries such as pest control, roofing, and others to reduce bat mortality and habitat destruction specific to increasing awareness and managing bats in buildings.