Funds protect grassland and riparian habitat

The Nature Trust of B.C. is celebrating a donation of $2,414 from the South Okanagan Naturalists’ Club.

  • Jan. 10, 2012 7:00 a.m.

South Okanagan Naturalists' Club members get a glimpse of an alkali lake during a tour of Twin Lakes by the Nature Trust.

Seeing it with their eyes made it easier to support with their wallets.

The Nature Trust of B.C. is celebrating a donation of $2,414 from the South Okanagan Naturalists’ Club, whose members toured the Twin Lakes area late last summer.

“We saw it’s a good value property,” said Doreen Olson, one of the club’s director. “Nature Trust took us on a tour, and we were so impressed with the place. It was pretty exciting to think that all that could be protected for future generations.”

Nature Trust is fundraising to acquire a 2,000-acre property south of Penticton to preserve grassland and riparian habitats. The Twin Lakes property is adjacent to the Nature Trust White Lake Biodiversity Ranch, where the Dominion Observatory is also located. During the tour, Olson said club members got to see the alkali lakes on site, where naturally occurring salts line the banks due to evaporation.

They also learned about the various endangered species that call the White Lake basin home: tiger salamanders, pallid bats and sage thrashers, a bird that only nests in a handful of locations in the valley. Some reptiles are found in the area.

“A lot of people don’t like rattlesnakes, but they’re really, really important to our ecosystem here,” Olson said, adding that the landscape itself is so unique. “It’s one of largest grassland properties available in the South Okanagan, other than areas being looked at for the national park.”

All told, the purchase price of the land is $3.2 million, which the club felt was a good investment for more than just endangered species.

“We went on a tour of the property and recognized the value of that purchase not only for wildlife, but also for people who live in this area because it will protect our watershed,” Olson said, adding that the land purchase would create migratory corridors for those species.

“I think most importantly it connects a lot of land together, so that it will be protected for future generations.”

The South Okanagan Naturalists’ Club kicked in $1,000 of the donations, generated from proceeds from sales of the club’s bird trail guide and other activities. Directors then asked club members to chip in additional funds if they felt the land trust purchase was a worthwhile venture, and the money was more than doubled.

“Those individual donations kind of represent the support the members have for this project,” she said.

Nature Trust’s Carl MacNaughton said the non-profit conservation organization has invested more than $70 million to secure over 61,000 hectares across B.C. so far, and the Twin Lakes area is ranked as a top priority by the South Okanagan Similkameen Conservation Program.

“This club and its members have really worked hard to make this gift possible,” MacNaughton said. “We want to applaud them for their leadership and contribution to helping us save this conservation treasure in the Okanagan.”

Olson said the club hopes the donation propels the land purchase forward. “We’re hoping that the project can complete, and others can step up and donate, too,” she said.

Anyone interested in donating to save the Twin Lakes parcel can call 1-866-288-7878 or visit www.naturetrust.bc.ca.

Those interested in the South Okanagan Naturalists’ Club can visit www.southokanagannature.com or drop by during meetings held the fourth Thursday of every month held at 7:30 p.m. in the United Church.

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