The Okanagan Collaborative Conservation Program is focused on building the capacity and financial mechanisms to support conservation, one way we are working towards this goal is the establishment and support of community conservations funds.
Conservation Funds are a dedicated source of funding for the specific purpose of undertaking environmental conservation projects. Funds help communities ensure the sustainability of natural environments and protect quality of life now and for the future.
Our natural environment contributes greatly to our quality of life. Healthy lands ensure clean and abundant water, fresh air, habitat for fish and wildlife, local food, working farms and ranches, and natural places for people to enjoy.
2018 marked a step towards the establishment of the North Okanagan Conservation Fund. The Regional District of North Okanagan (RDNO) Board gave a first reading for a bylaw to create a Conservation Fund that will support biodiversity conservation projects in the North Okanagan. Conservation Funds are created through Local Government Service Bylaws, just as some municipalities create service bylaws to collect recycling, they can create a service bylaw to protect the environment.
By establishing Conservation Funds, communities can turn a modest contribution into amazing achievements that will benefit the community now and for generations. The North Okanagan Conservation Fund will be a sub-regional fund that includes all the RDNO Rural Areas, the Village of Lumby and the City of Armstrong. If implemented the North Okanagan Conservation Fund will provide over $100,000 annually to support important local conservation projects, while only costing residents in the designated fund area of $6 per household annually.
OCCP is working with the RDNO to establish the North Okanagan Conservation Fund by:
- Assisting in the development of a terms of reference to provide a road map for the design and implementation of the fund.
- Establishing a technical advisory committee that will prioritize projects for support and make recommendations to the RDNO directors.
- Conducting public outreach regarding the benefits of the Fund and eligible recipients and potential projects.
In 2017 the Regional District of Okanagan Similkameen, with the support of the South Similkameen Okanagan Conservation Program, established The South Okanagan Conservation Fund, which is now thriving. The Fund supports locally important and high priority conservation projects. The Fund is now accepting project proposals for its 3rd year and over the last two years has awarded $690,000 to 13 projects. These projects have been able to leverage an additional $1.7M to support conservation in the South Okanagan.
Conservation funds help communities to:
- Protect watersheds and aquifers, ensuring clean abundant water resources
- Build networks of parks, green space, and natural corridors for both people and wildlife
- Enhance quality of life, tourism and recreation opportunities, and understanding of the natural environment
- Enhance the viability of local agriculture, food production, and other renewable resources
- Restore, enhance, and manage natural areas that provide services important to economies and communities
- Protect ecosystems to sequester carbon and meet community climate action objectives
- Partner with conservation organizations to pool financial resources and leverage significant funding from outside the community to achieve local goals
Today, many of our natural areas are in trouble and are at risk of being lost or damaged forever. Action is needed now to invest in the environment, so that natural areas can continue to sustain nature and all aspects of our livelihoods.