Williamson’s Sapsucker is an endangered bird species present just north of Princeton. (Glenn Bartley photo)

Williamson’s Sapsucker is an endangered bird species present just north of Princeton. (Glenn Bartley photo)

Princeton-area grasslands now protected as conservation area

Former Currie Ranch is home to sensitive grasslands and endangered bird species

Approximately 2,600 acres just north of Princeton are being protected as conservation land.

The property – the former Currie Ranch – is home to sensitive grasslands and endangered bird species, according to The Nature Trust of BC.

“This is a spectacular property due to its natural beauty, conservation values and size,” says Julian Zelazny, director of conservation land securement for The Nature Trust of BC.

“Vast grasslands stretch to the horizon, clumps of trees dot the landscape and a creek winds through the property. Eagles soar overhead and deer graze on the grass. Many species, including some of BC’s most at risk, live here. This is why we are working to protect this property.”

The project – named Princeton Grasslands – MapleCross Meadow in honour of its major corporate sponsor – is entering its third year.

The property is being purchased in three stages. The Trust purchased 1,100 in 2019, and spent $2.5 million last year acquiring a further 863 acres.

Grasslands account for just one per cent of property in B.C. The grasslands near Princeton are considered very important to the local environment ecosystem. (Graham Osborne photo)

Grasslands account for just one per cent of property in B.C. The grasslands near Princeton are considered very important to the local environment ecosystem. (Graham Osborne photo)

According to Trust spokesperson Jes Hovanes, the last piece of 526 acres will be bought in 2021, providing enough funds can be raised to finish the project.

Hovanes says the land will be held as a private conservation area that can never be developed or sold, but is now and will continue to be accessible to the public with restrictions.

Okanagan land manger for the Trust, Nick Burdock, said for now that means people can hike the property, and equestrians are welcome. Motorized vehicles and mountain bikes are not allowed.

Camping and fires are also not permitted, but the property is open to hunters.

Princeton Grasslands are an important habitat for the Williamson Sapsucker. There are approximately only 500 of these adult birds in Canada and they are designated as endangered.

The grasslands are also home to Barn Swallows and Olive-sided Flycathers, both designated as threatened.

According to the Nature Trust, less than one per cent of BC is covered with grasslands, which provide habitat for 30 per cent of BC’s species at risk. Grasslands support more threatened and endangered plants and animals than any other habitat type in the province.

READ MORE: Historic ranches, waterfront, mountains part of B.C.’s latest park expansion

READ MORE: Discover BC’s Similkameen

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