In this issue:

Supporting Our Species - SOS
OCCP Action Team News
Partner & Conservation News
Conferences & Workshops
Events
Resources

Supporting Our Species — SOS

Raptor Rapture

Meet this mysterious figure at Raptor Week, June 13-18.

Raptors are birds of prey, or birds that kill and eat other animals for food. This month the Allan Brooks Nature Centre (ABNC) gears up for their inaugural Raptor Week, so we thought this was a great opportunity to learn more about some of our local raptors!

"The Okanagan region, especially within the grasslands where the nature centre occurs, has some of the highest diversity of birds of prey species in all of Canada" said Aaron Deans, Executive Director at ABNC. "Being on the migratory pathway of over 30 species of raptors provides great viewing opportunities year-round. Expanding our programming to include up close encounters with these amazing birds is a great fit." (see Partner & Conservation News for more information).

The prairie falcon (Falco mexicanus) is a compact hunter that lives all year-round in the Okanagan, likes to nest in cliffs, and requires large foraging areas. It is a Provincially Red-listed species, which means it is of top conservation concern in BC. They are threatened because there are only small and sparse populations, they have a very slow recovery to disturbance, and their foraging habitat is being lost, especially in the Okanagan Valley.

Swainson's hawk (Buteo swainsoni) is a seasonal resident of the open pine woodlands of the Okangan Valley. Much like the prairie falcon, they can also hunt in some cultivated lands with scattered trees (e.g., alfalfa and grain), but not in vineyards or orchards. Most of the breeding habitat within BC is privately owned lands, making protection difficult with mounting development pressures. In British Columbia, loss of grassland habitat to urban sprawl, forest encroachment, and agriculture, as well as the reduction of prey abundance due to pesticide use, have been attributed to population declines in both of these species.

In BC, western screech-owls are either from a coastal sub-species (Megascops kennicottii kennicottii), or are restricted to the valleys of the extreme southern interior (Megascops kennicottii macfarlanei). The interior sub-species is Provincially Red-listed, and Federally listed as an Endangered Species at Risk. These tiny owls are threatened by the rapid loss of riparian cottonwood stands for agriculture, forestry, and urbanization.

Can you think of any ways to support our local raptors? We would love to hear your ideas!

OCCP Action Team News

"How do we get from here to there?"

Planning for Ecosystem Connectivity in the Okanagan

The University of British Columbia, Okanagan (UBCO)

The researchers of the Complex Environmental Systems Lab at UBCO have been working with the Regional District of Central Okanagan (RDCO) and OCCP to map and plan for Ecosystem Connectivity in the Okanagan. This month Corrie Allen, Dr. Lael Parrott, and Catherine Kyle from UBCO published a paper on their work modelling habitat connectivity for bighorn sheep in the Okanagan. In a recent UBCO article Corrie explained:

"When you conceptualize an animal moving across a landscape, you probably picture vegetated areas, such as forests and shrubs with gentle slopes. Bighorn sheep require completely the opposite for movement. They rely on steep rocky terrain to avoid predators and will not move through densely vegetated areas due to poor visibility. Thus, unless we are actively considering bighorn sheep in management plans, they are likely to be overlooked."

"We found that there are likely no continuous areas for movement between existing subpopulations of bighorn sheep in the Okanagan Valley; however, a series of small, intervening patches of habitat, called stepping-stones, could facilitate sheep movement. This emphasizes the importance of planning for bighorn sheep connectivity to ensure these connections remain viable into the future."

Another of Dr. Parrott's students, Rachel Field has also recently worked with RDCO and OCCP to produce an informative and engaging booklet about Ecosystem Connectivity, which will be available at events and presentations across the valley with OCCP, Okanagan SImilkameen Stewardship, and the Allan Brooks Nature Trailer. Keep an eye on the OCCP newsletter for upcoming events and updates about this Action Team.

The red hue is last year's growth of St.John's wort, which has heavily invaded the grassland at Bald Range

Beetles at work at Bald Range

Last month the OCCP newsletter highlighted an Action Team that is working together to restore and conserve a large remnant grassland in the Bear Creek Watershed. We are pleased to announce that we have 500 new partners working with us on this project. Yes, you read that correctly!

Ecologist Don Gayton was able to secure a partnership with 500 Chrysolina beetles, with the help of Catherine MacRae, an Invasive Plant Specialist with the Ministry of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations. She sent the freshly collected beetles to the Okanagan in style, on the Greyhound bus. These biocontrol agents were set free upon the enormous buffet of St.John's wort at the Bald Range site the next day, and a small netted exclusion area was set up as a control, so we can get a sense of whether the beetles have made an impact on this invasive weed as the season progresses.

The beetles feed preferentially on the St.John's wort plants, and will hopefully prevent them from producing seeds and growing in future years. This beetle has been used widely to control St.John's wort, but was not observed at the site over the past few years, despite hopeful surveys. Don had hypothesized that the grassland was too isolated from other grassland patches to reach the Bald Range, and the beetles might require a little help in reaching the site. This is the first step in the war against the weeds at the Bald Range grassland.

Radies wetland "then and now"

Okanagan Similkameen Stewardship Society (OSSS)

A new generation of ducks making use of the new wetland.

Okanagan Similkameen Stewardship staff have returned to the Radies wetland for some ongoing maintenance to increase survival of the nearly 700 native plants planted after excavation of this wetland last fall. This wetland was created through a collaboration with OSSS, Wayne and Wendie Radies, OCCP, and the BC Wildlife Federation, and was supported by Environment Canada, The Habitat Conservation Trust Foundation, Wildlife Habitat Canada, and Ophiuchus Consulting. In addition to irrigating the planting through the hot summer months, invasive plant management is a high priority, and is being done largely by OSSS summer students funded through the Canada Summer Jobs program, and the landowners.

It appears that survival of the native plants is quite high and the pond is already being used by amphibians, waterfowl, songbirds and bees as they stop for a drink. This project has been of great interest to passers by, and has inspired other residents to seek assistance in constructing ponds on their properties. To learn more about this project, click here.

How are Species At Risk protected?

The electric blue tail of a western skink, a reptile at risk, left without protection in the face of a developing landscape.

Last month, OCCP attended "Species At RIsk - In Context", a webinar hosted by the South Coast Conservation Program (SCCP). Three speakers presented information about local, Provincial, and Federal legislation, how each works to protect species and their critical habitat, and where the gaps and opportunities for action are.

Lynn Campbell from the Ministry of Environment outlined that Species At RIsk (SAR) are highly localized to valley bottoms, and 87% of SAR occurrences are on private land. The presenters went on to note that the Federal Species At Risk Act is limited to protecting SAR on Federal lands. The BC Provincial laws prevent bodily harm to vertebrate animals, but offer limited protection for critical habitat for some aquatic species, migratory birds, and four species listed in the Wildlife Act. The majority of animals and habitats have no protection on private lands, where species at risk concentrate along the valley bottoms.

This means that a large proportion of the responsibility to protect SAR is left up to local governments, to enact policies and provide incentives for private landowners to protect SAR and their critical habitat. Development Permit Areas are used in Official Community Plans to identify critical habitat, and ensure appropriate recommendations for protection are made on a case-by-case basis. Local governments have the oportunity to make a great impact on the conservation of rare species by implementing policies that act to protect critical habitat for local SAR.

You can help protect SAR by reporting rare species sightings to the BC Conservation Data Centre.

Outdoor Education Resource Kits

OCCP has teamed up with the OBWB, Okanagan Landing Elementary, the Innovative Learning Centre at UBCO, and Interior Health to develop outdoor education resource kits for teachers to enhance their capacity to lead outdoor education around "Where Does Water Go?"

If you are an environmental educator, and you are interested in sharing your experiences or ideas, please contact Tanis at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Partner & Conservation News

A new Management Plan for Goats Peak Regional Park

Regional District of Central Okanagan

Goats Peak Regional Park is 52 hectares on the slopes above of Okanagan Lake between District of West Kelowna and District of Peachland. The park was created in 2014, and the name given to this area by the Gellatly Family. The park is currently closed to the public while the Park Management Plan is completed and park improvements are made.

The Regional Board approved a Management Plan for this park in May, to guide development over the next 20 years. The new park management plan used the Biodiversity Conservation Strategy for the Okanagan, Foreshore Inventory Mapping, and Aquatic Habitat Index mapping to help guide planning. Park planners have indicated that they will continue to work with OCCP to develop and implement management objectives in the park, like connecting to wildife corridors beyond park boundaries to other protected areas, and to the nearby wildlife overpass across Highway 97. The goal is to protect the unique ecosystem throughout the park, while providing passive recreation opportunities along with interpretation and education and connections to neighbouring trails and existing and future parks. This project is another great example of how collaboration can have wide-reaching benefits!

You can view the Management Plan here. It is anticipated that the park opening will take place in 2017-18. It features beautiful views of Okanagan Lake, hiking trails, and a conservation area for shore spawning Kokanee salmon.

The Raptors are coming!

The Allan Brooks Nature Centre (ABNC)

The Allan Brooks Nature Centre invites you to experience a thrilling encounter with some of nature’s most amazing predators with the launch of Raptor Weeks. Admire free-flight demonstrations atop the ABNC rocky knoll during June 13-18, August 16-20 and September 20-24. Those in attendance will be thrilled by the unique ways each Raptor species acts in the grasslands. You can also book a 1.25 hour Close Encounter, which allows participants to get up close and personal with several different birds of prey including owls, hawks and falcons, learn about the conservation issues they face, and how we can help.

These new programs are offered in collaboration with The Raptors of Duncan, BC whose flying demonstrations and interactive programs have long been praised as being standard for bird care and health. “We are thrilled to bring our raptors to ABNC, our goal is to get people closer to these incredible birds and the ABNC is such a perfect location for our birds to soar” says Robyn Radcliffe, Operations Manager of The Raptors. “We are all about inspiring awe for all wildlife - what better way to create a connection between people and nature than to get closer to these beautiful and fierce predators of the sky?”

For more information, please visit the ABNC Raptor Program.

Poetry in motion with the Public Art Pollinator Project

EcoArt Incubator

The final lecture in "The Pollinizing Sessions: A Series of Talks and Workshops to Learn About Pollinators in Our Community" was a beautiful tribute by Lori Weidenhammer (Author and Artist) about "Women Who Run with the Bees: Artists Inspired by Bees and Artist-Led Conservation Projects". Among many other interesting stories, Lori highlighted artist led pollinator garden installation projects, and talked about how important it is that these are not isolated. She discussed the importance of connectivity, and outlined ideas to improve wild pollinator habitat, such as planting native plants and hedgerows along agricultural fields. If you missed any of the previous talks, you can still watch them here.

This month the group is hosting a poetry contest, and they are asking for your bee-utiful poetry about pollinators to be submitted by June 21st. This summer, ten chosen poems will be awarded $50 each and be displayed around Kelowna in a Poetry Post. Poetry Posts or Poetry Boxes are “little free libraries” that contain poems instead of books. Passersby are encouraged to read “The Poem of the Week” and perhaps take copies, or leave new poems in return. For more information, please visit the poetry contest website.

The Public Art Pollinator Pasture Project volunteers also recently constructed four garden beds at the Brent's Grist Mill park in Kelowna. They are testing several organic mulching strategies to reduce the weeds in the garden beds before they plant native species in the fall that are selected to support wild bees. Stay tuned for upcoming events and opportunities to get involved!

Fundraising for the Okanagan Rail Trail

In 2015 the City of Kelowna, District of Lake Country, Regional District of North Okanagan, and the Province of B.C., invested $22 million in the purchase of the discontinued CN railway running from Coldstream to Kelowna. In early 2016 the Okanagan Indian Band joined these local governments on an inter-jurisdictional team to plan for the development of the rail trail. At open houses this spring, the team unveiled preliminary plans for trail development, including construction of a 4.6m wide continuous, hard packed gravel trail, estimated to cost $7.86 million. Future phases will include the construction of parking areas, user facilities such as washrooms and picnic areas and possibly an asphalt surface on the trail. Due to the significant investment to purchase the corridor, and other community priorities, local governments are not able to fund development of a trail in the short-term.

Fundraising for construction of the Okanagan Rail Trail has finally begun, and there are many opportunities for communities to help create this legacy, one meter at a time (1 m of trail = $160). All donations are received by the Community Foundation of the North Okanagan and the Central Okanagan Foundation, and will go towards the development of the trail in its entirety. Visit the website to find out how you can donate and get involved!

The process to convert rails to trails is already underway. CN is concluding their responsibilities to remove rails and ties and complete environmental clean-up. The rail trail will provide a tremendous opportunity to experience and learn about the rich habitats of the Okanagan. It will get vehicles off the road, especially in Lake Country and Kelowna where the route will be used for safe commuting. It will connect communities, and people of all ages and abilities. It will be a legacy for future generations.

Conferences & Workshops

BCWF Wetlands Education Workshops

BC Wildlife Federation (BCWF)

Map our Marshes Workshop, Penticton | July 7, 2016

Wetlands Institute, Lower Mainland | Aug 27- Sept 2, 2016

See the BCWF website for more details.

Events

First Peoples' Celebration

The Allan Brooks Nature Centre (ABNC) Saturday, June 11, 2016
11:00am -3:00pm

Join us for our 3rd annual festival celebrating First Nations, Metis and Inuit culture through engaging activities, educational presentations, traditional song and dance delivered by performers in beautiful regalia, along with ceremonial events and demonstrations. Other attractions include local artists work for sale and display, traditional bannock roasting over the fire, traditional food and more.

All ages are welcome for this free event which includes plenty of activities for the kids to enjoy including face painting, a friendship bracelet workshop, rock painting and story telling. This event is run in collaboration with the First Nations Friendship Centre, Okanagan College, Aboriginal Community Elders Society and other community representatives.

Unbelievable Bees at the EECO Centre

There’s been a lot of focus in recent years about the threats posed to natural bee populations. Starting Friday, April 22nd visitors to the Environmental Education Centre for the Okanagan will be able to view the ‘Unbelievable Bees’ exhibit. They’ll find answers to why bees are important; the relationship between bees and plants; how honey is made and what factors are leading to the decline in the bee population. They’ll also learn how they can help protect bees and the health of our ecosystems.

The EECO is open Tuesday through Friday from 10:00 am to 6:00 pm and weekends from 10:00 am to 5:00 pm. It’s located in Mission Creek Regional Park (Springfield and Durnin Roads), 2363 Springfield Road, Kelowna.

‘Go Fish’ in a Regional Park

Here’s your chance to introduce the young members of your family to the sport of fishing! The ‘Go Fish’ program returns this spring at two easy to access regional park locations!

Starting May 7th the program runs each weekend until June 12th, between 10:00 am and 3:00 pm at both locations. Each Saturday the fishing locations will have staff from the Freshwater Fisheries Society of BC and volunteer organizations while Sunday fishing will see RDCO Parks Services staff on hand. The program offers youth age 15 and under, a chance to catch one rainbow trout each day without a fishing license. A limited number of rods, reels and bait will be available each weekend for youngsters to use and try their luck!

‘Go Fish’ is being offered once again with the generous support of the Peachland Sportsmen’s Association, Kelowna and District Fish and Game Club along with the Ministry of Environment, Freshwater Fisheries Society of BC and the Summerland Trout Hatchery.

Art exhibit highlights Okanagan grasslands

Beaty Biodiversity Museum

The Beaty Biodiversity Museum at UBC in Vancouver recently opened a new exhibit called "From Meadows Woodlands Far and Near". This exhibit features watercolour and woodcutting depictions of actual native BC pressed plant specimens from the UBC Herbarium.

OCCP's Projects Coordinator helped to highlight species from the Okanagan-Similkameen grassland ecosystems in this exhibit by providing technical advice and descriptions of key grasses for the woodcut series, and photographs with an overview of the ecology of the Okanagan for a feature specimen display. The artwork is extremely beautiful and educational, and there are a variety of themed interactive activities available to keep all ages entertained. Make sure you catch this spectacular exhibit before it ends September 4, 2016!

Resources

In this newsletter, we encouraged you to report sightings of rare species to the BC COnservation Data Centre, but you can also report Badger sightings to the Badger Hotline, by calling 1-888-223-4376, or going online. Read more about the Badger hotline here.

Another interesting new resource for conservation is the Atlas of BC Breeding Birds