Community

Trust seeking donations to complete habitat puzzle

California big horn sheep ewes graze in one of the patures on property already owned by Nature Trust of B.C. adjacent to Vaseux Lake between Penticton and Oliver. The Trust is currently looking to complete the purchase of another portion of critical property habitat nearby in the next couple of months.   - Mark Brett/Western News
California big horn sheep ewes graze in one of the patures on property already owned by Nature Trust of B.C. adjacent to Vaseux Lake between Penticton and Oliver. The Trust is currently looking to complete the purchase of another portion of critical property habitat nearby in the next couple of months.
— image credit: Mark Brett/Western News

Nature Trust of B.C. is actively pursuing another key piece to its ecological jigsaw puzzle in the south Okanagan.

The 13.7-hectare site, located just south of Vaseux Lake, is one of Canada’s top four endangered natural ecosystems which is home to 20 at-risk species, one of the highest concentrations in the country.

The B.C.-based conservation organization is hoping to raise the remaining $100,000 of the $1.6 million necessary to purchase the property over the next two months with help from the public.

The land is located in an area known as the Antelope Brush Conservation Area where the Trust has already bought two other parcels totalling 104.8 hectares (259 acres).

“We need to keep these areas intact so we can facilitate animal movements north, south, east and west, but especially the north  and south and especially now with climate change,” said Penticton’s Nick Burdock, who took over the job of Okanagan land co-ordinator for Nature Trust in January.

“You might already have 300 hectares here but if you cut off that middle bit then you have these isolated pockets where you can’t really facilitate things like gene transfer.

“This area is one the largest private holdings of antelope brush in the south Okanagan, so completing this would add another layer of protection.”

He estimated with urban and agricultural development there is now less than 30 per cent (about 3,400 hectares) of the historical range of antelope brush land remaining.

Although it is a very narrow portion of semi-desert property in between McIntyre and Eagle bluffs, it is used by a large number ungulates such as mule deer and the California Big Horn Sheep. The region is also home to about 50 per cent of the Canadian population of Behr’s Hairstreak butterfly and other at-risk species including great basin pocket mouse, Preble’s shrew, spotted bat and desert night snake.

“Sure, a lot of people will never get out to see something like the Behr’s Hairstreak or some of the other animals but they are critical to our ecology and need to be protected,” said Burdock.

The agricultural value of the land, and one that makes it particularly attractive in today’s market, is its high potential for grape production.

“That’s one of the major agricultural threats to antelope brush in our region,” said the land co-ordinator. “That’s why when these areas come for sale and you have willing sellers, it’s important to take advantage of it. There’s just not much to begin with.”

He added the Trust is in good financial shape, overseeing about 28 properties from Kamloops to the Okanagan.

Its most recent, major land acquisition was in 2012 when it purchased an 800-hectare ranch in the Twin Lakes region southwest of Penticton.

Anyone wishing to donate to the current fundraiser or for other projects can do so online at naturetrust.bc.ca or by calling the toll-free number 1-866-288-7878.

 

 

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