In this issue:
Reflecting On Our Cooperation
Supporting Our Species - SOS
OCCP Action Team News
Partner & Conservation News
Conferences & Workshops
Reflecting On Our Cooperation
As we celebrate Canada's birthday in July, we invite you to consider how the Statement of Cooperation that OCCP's 35 member organizations have committed to supports national priorities and commitments for conservation:
"We believe that biodiversity is a key component of Canada’s national heritage.
Both Canada and British Columbia have made international and national commitments to conserve biological diversity. Canadians from all walks of life are committed to preserving this rich component of our national heritage for the enjoyment and education of future generations. Biodiversity has inherent and ecosystem services values as well as economic consequences that justify its conservation. These values must be preserved for many future generations of Canadians."
Contact us today to find out how OCCP can help you meet your conservation goals!
Supporting Our Species - SOS
Grasslands...going, going, gone...
Some of the most threatened ecosystems in Canada are our Okanagan grasslands and open Ponderosa Pine forests. Ted Lea, Vegetation Ecologist with the BC Ministry of Environment, published a study in 2008 in the journal_Davidsonia_ that compared aerial photographs of the Okanagan from 1938 and estimated land cover extrapolated back to 1800, with aerial photos from 2001-2004. He calculated that over 60% of our gentle slope grassland and shrub-steppe habitats have been lost since European settlement in the Okanagan. How much has that number changed since 2004?
Recently, the Grasslands Conservation Council and OCCP collaborated to help identify where the most at risk grasslands are located (see the Action Team News below). Grasslands are critical for supporting biodiversity, and about 1/3 of the Species At Risk in BC rely on the grasslands for their survival. However, there are also a number of fairly common species that are at risk of becoming endangered as grassland habitat continues to disappear. The lower elevation areas in the Okanagan are prime grassland habitat, but are also where we concentrate development. Some of our grassland ecosystems have been classified as endangered, but there is limited protection for these habitats and the species they support. Plants are the foundation of the grassland ecosystem, but the diversity of plants is often overlooked in conservation considerations. What would the Okanagan be without these common species from threatened ecosystems?:
Bluebunch wheatgrass is a key species in several of our most endangered grassland types, and provides food for mountain sheep and range cattle, and shelter for wild pollinators.
Arrow-leaved balsamroot lights up the Okanagan hillsides with yellow blossoms in the spring, and feeds the bees and the deer.
Sagebrush mariposa lily is a stunning hidden gem you can find in bloom now amongst the bunchgrasses and shrubs on some of our driest hillsides.
Read more to find out how collaboration can make an impact for the conservation of these habitats.
OCCP Action Team News
New mapping identifying grasslands (yellow) and the patches most threatened by development (red)
What have we got to lose?
Grasslands Conservation Council (GCC)
The GCC, OCCP, and Geo Earth Mapping have recently collaborated to map and identify the grasslands most threatened by development, as identified by local experts. The project identified that the Okanagan region is by far the greatest region of concern in the province for loss of grasslands to development or agricultural conversion. Only 25% of the grasslands here are on Crown land, and 30% are in the ALR. This means that there is equal responsibility on private landowners, agriculturalists, and governments alike to conserve these threatened ecosystems.
To help spread the word about our disappearing grasslands in the Okanagan, an informative pamphlet that includes this new mapping was created. The pamphlets are currently being distributed by OCCP and some of its partners at various events throughout the valley. If you would like to know more, or to see these pamphlets at your event or place of business, please contact us today!
Pollinating young minds
Okanagan Landing Elementary School
Students at Okanagan Landing Elementary in Vernon are putting great use to the new pollinator garden that was constructed on the school's property in the fall. The students have been outdoors studying monarch butterflies and their relationships with plants, but they are also discovering so much more. During a recent visit to the garden by Buffy Baumbrough, who helped construct the garden, one student exclaimed “Come here you guys! I found a wasp and a spider!” Buffy was pleased to see the students taking an interest in these garden creatures, instead of being scared and killing them, making connections, and learning concepts of care, conservation, habitat, and survival.
Some of the children had learned about invasive weeds, and had recognized some being sold at a local nursery, so they took action to advocate to the nursery to stop selling the plants. Another student who generally has a great deal of difficulty writing down their thoughts wrote a whole page about butterflies after learning with the garden. The fenced pollinator garden has also made a big difference for one autistic student who likes to run outdoors, but needs guidance staying within school boundaries. There have been a number of positive benefits to having this garden in addition to those originally anticipated.
This Action Team is now beginning to collect and construct curriculum for use in this outdoor learning space around the theme "Where Does Water Go?". The curriculum units will be shared with other teachers upon completion. If you are an environmental educator, and you are interested in sharing your experiences or ideas with our team, please contact Tanis at
Bringing conservation into the construction zone
SeedsCo Community Conservation
OCCP's Projects Coordinator, Tanis Gieselman, has been working for a number of years on a conservation initiative that aims to enhance grassland conservation in developing areas. She partners with local developers who have property to develop, but wish to conserve the native plant diversity, and perhaps use some of the plants for landscaping after the development is finished. She identifies and collects as many native grassland plant species as possible from the developing property, and these plant materials are made available to local restoration initiatives and private gardeners who wish to grow native species. She is also working towards submitting conservation collections to long-term seed banks in Canada and abroad.
This project is expected to enhance grassland conservation as well as increase the supply of native plants for large-scale restoration projects without drawing too heavily on remaining pristine areas. Her work with OCCP has allowed her to spend more time in the Okanagan working on this project, and increase networking with other local groups like the Okanagan Xeriscape Society and the Summerland Ornamental Gardens to resolve these, and other plant-related challenges in the Okanagan.
July is a peak month for seed collecting, and the SeedsCo project is gearing up for a huge harvest in the coming weeks of bluebunch wheatgrass and sagebrush mariposa lilies mentioned above, among many other species. If you are interested in working with a community of native plant suppliers and growers to help conserve Okanagan grasslands, or would like to volunteer on seed collecting trips, please contact Tanis at
Partner & Conservation News
Environmental Advisory Commission
Regional District of Central Okanagan (RDCO)
RDCO is seeking to add members to the Environmental Advisory Commission. If you are aware of someone who may be interested in this opportunity, please feel free to forward the attachment as Planning staff is currently welcoming membership applications and inquiries.
The Commission works with staff to advise the Regional Board on the environmental aspects of land use planning and impact on environmental sustainability. Commission members will be selected on the basis of their demonstrated interest and participation in community matters, availability, work experience, knowledge and background in the environment. Meetings are held approximately once a month at the Regional District office.
To be considered for this volunteer opportunity, please submit a brief outline of your background and experience online, or by forwarding to the Planning Section:
In Person: 1450 KLO Road, Kelowna, BC
The next meeting is July 7, so we encourage you to sign up today if you are interested. A link to the agenda for this meeting of the Environmental Advisory Commission can be found on the Enviornmental Advisory Commission webpage.
The Okanagan Nation brings salmon home to Okanagan Lake
Starting June 3, 2016, the Okanagan Nation Alliance’s (ONA) fry releases took place at 6 Mile Creek (Vernon), Trout Creek (Summerland), and Mission Creek (Kelowna). The releases were in recognition and celebration of the Syilx peoples’ continued successful efforts to bring sockeye salmon back to the Okanagan, and in particular now to Okanagan Lake. These ceremonies are critical given that sockeye salmon were nearly extinct in the Okanagan Basin. In the 1960’s the Columbia River Treaty and other developments led to the creation of industrial reservoirs, and the building hydro-electric developments on the Columbia River, making it impossible for fish passage, while deeply impacting Syilx cultural and food systems. Years of hard work and political advocacy, particularly in the last decade, have seen the ONA working with provincial, federal and US Tribes and agencies to rebuild this sockeye run from 3000 up to 500,000 salmon returning annually.
These conservation efforts are critical. Last year’s drought and heatwave devastated an expected robust Okanagan sockeye salmon run. In response, Howie Wright, ONA’s Fisheries Manager pointed out that “We now have another cold water lake [after Osoyoos and Skaha Lake] to help us build resilience in sockeye salmon stocks, diversifying the gene stock within each of these lake systems. Based on its size and depth we could see Okanagan Lake with a minimum of 30,000 -100,000 adult spawners per year. On top of that optimistically anywhere from 300,000-.5 million for fisheries harvest would be coming to Okanagan Basin. It has the significant potential to meet food, social, ceremonial needs, providing food security for communities, while seeing a surplus extend to range of biological and economic benefits”.
OSSS Summer Newsletter
Okanagan Similkameen Stewardship Society
Learn how to support local pollinators, and see some great before and after photographs of local restoration initiatives in the OSSS summer newsletter.
Fundraising for the Okanagan Rail Trail
The process to convert rails to trails is already underway along the Okanagan Rail Trail. 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.
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!
Canada Day Matching Challenge Update - $32,900 in donations from 153 donors has come in the first 3 days. Matching donor will increase matching of donations between July 1 to 10th to $100,000. Let's Make It Happen!
Students looking for projects
Sierra Okanagan is planning to embark on a partnership with a group out of Kalamalka Secondary School to map and research the natural systems and their importance in the greater Vernon area. The Students Without Borders Academy, led by director David Fehr, is looking for potential projects. Twenty four young adults aged 16-17 from 7 schools are expected to be involved with the project, mapping and listing the local ecosystems of the greater Vernon area. The goal is to research the effects that urban development has had on ecosystems and wildlife, and create a report of findings and recommendations of what policies should be in place if any, to submit to multi-lateral levels of government in B.C. and Canada. The students will be doing projects into the Fall, and are available to work on projects from Sept-26 to October 27 and onward. Contact the group directly, or through OCCP if you have a project in mind that would benefit from some enthusiastic young scientists this fall.
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.
Society for the Protection of Kal Lake and Protect Our Freshwater
Splash Mob on July 24th is a community day of action to raise widespread attention to the threat of invasive zebra and quagga mussels. These mussels are knocking on our borders and if they arrive here, it will be the END of the lakes and rivers of BC as we know them.
Our goal is to have as many people as possible bring their watercraft and form a giant circle on Kal Lake, with a huge floating sign in the middle. This image will be captured from above with drone footage and broadcast across the media platforms of Canada and the Pacific Northwest. Please see our registration page here.
Public Art Pollinator Project
Over the past winter, Kelowna’s Public Art Pollinator Pasture Team created 300 sheets of seed-embedded paper with members of the community. This handmade paper was laser-cut into 10 000 bees you see on the gallery wall. The seed in the paper is donated Gaillardia seed from several Kelowna gardens, from the Okanagan Xeriscape Association’s UNH20 demonstration garden, and wild seed harvested by SeedCo Community Conservation from land slated for development. Gaillardia is a hardy, drought-resistant plant that is native to the Okanagan and an ideal choice for our pasture and for local gardens.
Throughout the summer, in conjunction with this show, the pollinator pasture team will be hosting events at the Kelowna Art Gallery and around the community:
Friday, July 8: Cameron Cartiere, Artist Talk 7PM
Cameron Cartiere and the chART collective’s, For All Is For Yourself explores ways of increasing sustainable habitat for bees.
Friday, July 9: For All Is For Yourself Opening, Kelowna Art Gallery 2PM
Thursday, July 21: Claudette Lamont Talk 7-8:30PM Claudette and her spouse, Eian, will share their vast knowledge and experience of over 50 years of beekeeping in the Okanagan.
Sunday, August 21: Bees Live Here
Did you know many bees actually live in the ground? And that healthy garden homes for bees have some special requirements? Let’s make some special signs to mark where we find bee homes in our yards and to let our neighbours and friends know we have Bee Friendly Gardens.
Saturday, October 1: Insect Hotel / Wild Bienenhaus
Help us build a home for pollinators and pest controllers. Many solitary bees and other insects live in bee hotels all over the world. This one is being built to be permanently placed on site at Brent’s Grist Mill Heritage site as part of Culture Days and The Kelowna Public Art Pollinator Project.
Thursday, October 6: Mark Winston Lecture and Paper Bee Swarm
Mark Winston, author of the Governor General award winning book Bee Time: Lessons From the Hive, will give a talk to conclude the exhibition For All Is For Yourself and the public will be invited to take the paper bees embedded with Gaillardia seed off the walls of the gallery to plant in their own gardens.
We are also planting and experimenting with our pasture and everyone is welcome to help out. The pasture is located at Brent’s Grist Mill Heritage Park near the intersection of Dilworth and Leckie roads. If you’d like to get involved or learn more about the project, please contact us at
Save the Date: Wine & Wild Things Sparkling Gala and Auction
The Allan Brooks Nature Centre (ABNC)
Our 15th Gala is groomed to be our best yet. The Wine & Wild Things Sparkling Gala and Auction 2016 will be held on Saturday, September 24 under the starlit sky at the breathtaking Sparkling Hill Resort.
Starting the evening with a glass of award winning wine you will enjoy an inspired menu of gourmet hors d’voures and begin your wild evening of discovery. Created for only 200 guests, this one-of-a-kind event promises to be filled with unexpected surprises and a world class comedy show.
All proceeds will be used to educate our next generation of nature lovers & maintain our reputation as a leader in nature education & promotion but we can’t do it without YOU!
Our gala website and ticket sales will be launched shortly– stay tuned!
Rockin' with Rocks
Kelowna NatureKids will be going to Eain Lamont Park on July 10th from 1:00-3:00 PM to learn about the rock cycle.
Please RSVP to the Facebook event here:
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!
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.
July 8 Vancouver Foundation - Environment and Animal Welfare Test and Grow Grants Stage One: Project Overview
The Foundation grants of up to $75,000 for organizations with innovative projects in our four fields of interest: Arts and Culture; Education and Training; Environment and Animal Welfare; and Health and Social Development.
July 15 Habitat Conservation Trust Foundation
HCTF's new Land Stewardship Grants, made possible through an endowment provided by the Province of British Columbia for operations and management costs on conservation lands is now requesting letters of intent from eligible organizations requesting funding from this program. The deadline for submitting letters of intent is July 15th, 2016 at 4:30PM PDT.
July 15 TD Friends of the Environment Foundation
The Foundation supports a wide range of environmental initiatives, with a primary focus on environmental education, urban greening and enhancing biodiversity, and energy conservation.
In May, 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. The South Coast Conservation Program has posted the webinar on their YouTube page.
You can help protect SAR by reporting rare species sightings to the BC Conservation Data Centre.
Another interesting new resource for conservation is the Atlas of BC Breeding Birds