Keeping Nature in our Future, ‘A Biodiversity Conservation Strategy for the Okanagan Region’ (the Strategy) is an environmental policy framework that sets priorities for identifying, preserving and restoring important natural areas. The purpose of developing a regional strategy was to create a “big-picture” landscape view of the region that provides a framework for considering conservation options for entire ecosystems and watersheds that go beyond municipal or rural boundaries and includes all land-tenures.

The Okanagan region has some of the greatest concentrations of species and ecosystems in Canada. Many are found nowhere else in the country and in some cases the world. Wildlife and natural areas in the Okanagan region are in trouble because of impacts from our towns and cities, agriculture, and other human activities on the land and water. By investing in Keeping Nature in our Future we can help to protect our rich natural assets as a legacy for future generations.

What is a Biodiversity Strategy?

Keeping Nature in our Future, ‘A Biodiversity Conservation Strategy for the Okanagan Region’ (the Strategy) is an environmental policy framework that sets priorities for identifying, preserving and restoring important natural areas. The purpose of developing a regional strategy was to create a “big-picture” landscape view of the region that provides a framework for considering conservation options for entire ecosystems and watersheds that go beyond municipal or rural boundaries and includes all land-tenures.

The Strategy identifies:

  1. Why we should conserve and restore natural areas,
  2. Which natural areas should be protected and restored,
  3. Who can contribute,
  4. How and when conservation and enhancement of these natural areas can be achieved, and the role of natural areas in protecting regional biodiversity.

Why is a Strategy needed for the Okanagan?

The Okanagan region has some of the greatest concentrations of species and ecosystems in Canada. Many are found nowhere else in the country and in some cases the world. Wildlife and natural areas in the Okanagan region are in trouble because of impacts from our towns and cities, agriculture, and other human activities on the land and water. By investing in Keeping Nature in our Future we can help to protect our rich natural assets as a legacy for future generations.

As the region’s population continues to grow, the strategy provides the necessary information to ensure that stewardship of the natural environment is considered in all decisions on urban, suburban, resource, recreational, and rural development.

BCS regional boundaries

The Strategy covers the geographic area of the South Okanagan-Similkameen, Central Okanagan, and North Okanagan regional districts and their member municipalities and electoral areas. This includes parts of the Shuswap and Similkameen Valleys as well as the Okanagan Valley.

Nature is important in the Okanagan Region. It provides essential ecological services like clean water and air, flood control, pollination, and storing carbon.

Nature also plays a critical role in the economy of the Okanagan. It supports resource-based industries, specialty crops, and tourism. It also benefits the real estate market when properties are in proximity to natural areas, greenways, trails and open spaces.

What's in the Strategy?

  1. Vision, Goals & Guiding Principles
  2. Analysis of the status of biodiversity in the region
  3. Strategic directions & recommended actions for local & senior governments
  4. Summary of biodiversity key findings for each regional district
  5. List of existing tools and resources for biodiversity conservation
  6. List of federal and provincial legislation of significance to biodiversity management

The Status of Nature in the Okanagan Region

bcs meander1The status of nature in the Okanagan was assessed using ecological, environmental, and land ownership data. The analyses resulted in a series of maps (decision tools) that answer key questions about:

  • Which ecosystems are the most important (Conservation Rankings),
  • Where are the areas of greatest importance for biodiversity (Relative Biodiversity),
  • How are habitats linked to allow wildlife movement (Habitat Connectivity), and
  • What is being managed to protect biodiversity and where are there gaps and opportunities (Land Management Class).

The Maps:

bcs OHA1 The maps (Conservation Ranking, Relative Biodiversity, Habitat Connectivity and Land Management Class) can assist individuals and organizations in making informed decisions on conservation and land use planning at a region-wide scale. The maps are available on the Okanagan Habitat Atlas and can be downloaded here as digital map files (GIS shapefiles) or image documents (PDF posters).

What's Next:

The OCCP, SOSCP and their partners are committed to implementing and monitoring the success of the strategy. High-priority tasks include:

  1. Engage stakeholders and decision-makers, including First Nations, the general public and private land ownersthrough disseminating the biodiversity strategy, decision support tools (maps); and targeted outreach and discussion,
  2. Adopt a Governance Structure for strategy implementation,
  3. Finalize an Action Plan,
  4. Finalize a Measurement, Reporting and Evaluation Plan, including a performance measurement framework,
  5. Coordinate strategy implementation across the Okanagan region and other relevant regional and inter-regional land use planning and management initiatives.

Additional Resources:

bcs doc cover1 Companion documents that support the Strategy have also been developed. These documents include the guide Designing and Implementing Ecosystem Connectivity in the Okanagan and Case Studies from the North and Central Okanagan that support the 'Biodiversity Conservation Strategy for the Okanagan Region'. Specific information for the South Okanagan-Similkameen is available at www.soscp.org. The Biodiversity Conservation Strategy and all of the supporting documents are also available here. Together, all of these documents form the Keeping Nature in our Future Series.

Links to Reports:

Biodiversity Conservation Strategy for the Okanagan Region - Summary

A Biodiversity Conservation Strategy for the Okanagan Region

A Biodiversity Conservation Analysis for the North and Central Okanagan Region

Biodiversity Conservation Analysis and Mapping for the South Okanagan Similkameen Region: Keeping Nature in Our Future Volume 1 (Sept, 2011)

Designing and Implementing Ecosystem Connectivity in the Okanagan

Project Supporters:

Many thanks to all of the contributors to the ‘Keeping Nature in our Future Series’. We thank our many partners, advisors, agencies, technical experts and observers. Without their support, this project would not have been possible. We recognize our funders for both strategies that form the basin document:

  1. South Okanagan Similkameen: Regional District of the Okanagan Similkameen; Environment Canada: Canadian Wildlife Service and Habitat Stewardship Program; Province of B.C., Ministry of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations; Vancouver Foundation; Habitat Conservation Trust Foundation; Real Estate Foundation of B.C.; and Great Northern Landscape Conservation Cooperative.
  2. North and Central Okanagan: Regional District of Central Okanagan and Regional District of North Okanagan; Real Estate Foundation of B.C., Vancouver Foundation; Environment Canada, Canadian Wildlife Service and Habitat Stewardship Program; Okanagan Basin Water Board; and Great Northern Landscape Conservation Cooperative.