In this issue:

Just one more little piece won't hurt...or will it?

An excavator clearing land
Each little piece of habitat we develop is like eating just one more piece of Halloween candy...

Reflecting On Our Cooperation
OCCP Action Team News
Partner & Conservation News
Supporting Our Species - SOS
Conferences & Workshops
Funding Opportunities

Reflecting On Our Cooperation

While the snow falls, we have been gorging on Halloween candy. As you find yourself thinking "just one more little piece won't hurt", we invite you to consider how each little piece of habitat we develop is like eating just one more piece of Halloween candy: losing it makes us less healthy; once it is gone, it is a lot of trouble to get it back; if you do get it back it is never quite the same as it was before; and if you don't plan carefully, it could all be gone before you know it. Unlike Halloween candy, our natural ecosystems are essential for our survival, and we can't just consume it all over time.

Our work aims to minimize the slow loss of habitat by helping local governments plan to keep our ecosystems healthy into the future, and helping to change the idea that "just one more little piece won't hurt".

OCCP's Statement of Cooperation outlines priorities and commitments for the protection of habitat and sustainable development in the Okanagan Valley. Our Statement of Cooperation commits OCCP Partners in their combined conservation vision:

"We see a special place where …
  • the future of biodiversity is secure and the ecological integrity of the unique landscape is protected
  • species can continue to migrate between the interior of BC and the desert areas of the western United States
  • people of all ages can enjoy the natural beauty the area has to offer
  • the traditional values and knowledge of the Aboriginal people of the Okanagan are honoured and applied to new challenges"

Large listing of the logos of OCCP partners

OCCP Action Team News

OCCP provides information and resources that encourage our community take action to improve environmental protection in the Okanagan. We have contributed to a number of initiatives this month that are working to improve how Okanagan residents use the land, and we hope they will inspire others to consider the environment in their everyday activities.

Keeping Nature Connected

Lake Country is the first community to get the opportunity to experience the interactive digital exhibit "Keeping Nature Connected".

When you visit the municipal office and public library in Lake Country this month, you can learn

  • how to make your backyard more bee-friendly,
  • explore the valley from a variety of perspectives,
  • and see why it is important to keep nature protected and connected.

OCCP has been collaborating with Dr. Aleksandra Dulic, and her research team in the UBCO Centre for Culture and Technology, for nearly two years. This interdisciplinary art-science team, funded by TELUS, has worked on developing a series of interactive digital touch-screen exhibits that encourage participants to see the Okanagan from the perspective of our local wildlife, and highlight the challenges that animals face in a fragmented landscape.

Interactive virtual maps and environmentsThis month, the digital exhibits were updated and combined into one display, for a compact exhibition in a public space.

Participants can advance through the interactive virtual maps and environments and learn:

  • why connecting the landscape is important for creating healthy habitats,
  • read about efforts to conserve wildlife at risk in the Okanagan,
  • visit a demonstration pollinator garden,
  • and try re-planting a lawn with plants that would make an ideal bee habitat!

This past month OCCP has also summarized a list of policy and bylaw actions that local governments have available to them to protect sensitive ecosystems like ecological corridors. OCCP has also been facilitating the inclusion of the Okanagan Mountain to Kalamalka Lake Ecological Corridor into the scheduled update of the Official Community Plan for Lake Country.

This exhibition is intended to help the citizens, elected officials, and staff of Lake Country connect with the idea that keeping natural areas protected and connected is essential for everyone, and there are a variety of ways of taking action, from civic planning to backyard gardening. Ecological corridors cross all lands in the Okanagan (e.g., for bees and badgers), and everyone has a part to play in protecting essential ecosystems.

Considering a Conservation Fund for the North Okanagan

Recently, Bryn White of the South Okanagan-Similkameen Conservation Program and Scott Boswell of the Okanagan Collaborative Conservation Program appeared as a delegation to the Board of the Regional District of North Okanagan to introduce the opportunity to create a Conservation Fund similar to other Regional Districts like the South Okanagan. Such a fund would enable the North Okanagan to establish a base of local resources that could be leveraged with contributions from private donations and federal money to be used for park acquisition and conservation works, such as the Swan Lake Wildlife Management Area, Shuswap Falls fish passage, and ongoing study and stewardship of biological values.

Mission Creek SHIM Data Now Available

The Mission Creek SHIM data is now available on the Regional District of Central Okanagan GIS system and available for download.

Reaching Out to Lakeshore Landowners

OCCP has been working with RDCO, SOSCP, and a number of other partners to draft a series of printed and online resources to help Okanagan residents connect with best practices for living on the lakeshore. The objective of these resources is to provide information to lakeshore landowners and other Okanagan residents about the importance of keeping our shores natural for water quality, wildlife habitat, and flooding protection. We will also provide information about the steps that should be followed when considering development on lakeshore properties and obtaining the proper permitting, and resources to help lakeshore landowners know what the best practices are for living on the lakeshore.

Bald Range Update

A disturbing red trend is spreading across the Bald Range grasslands.

OCCP met with the Central Okanagan Naturalist Club (CONC), and local ecologist Don Gayton, for a hike through the Bald Range grasslands in the Lambly Creek watershed, West Kelowna. This grassland is an important patch of grassland among a sea of forests, and provides habitat for a variety of wildlife, like owls and deer. As the visitors discovered, there is a disturbing red trend spreading across this landscape, and it is inspiring groups to take action for this grassland.

Bald Range has been the focus of several conservation initiatives over the past few years, through partnerships between CONC, local fish and game clubs, trail-riders, the Province, and interested individuals like Don Gayton. Conservation activities include adding fencing to prevent motor vehicle and bike access, implementing best range management practices, and starting invasive species control trials.

The hillside was once cut in half by an active dirt-bike trail, and several patches of invasive weeds have taken hold through historical land use. St. John's wort (the red plants in the photo) and sulphur cinquefoil have heavily invaded a much greater area of Bald Range over the past year. The photos show the progression of the invasion on the lower slopes, and up the old dirt-bike trail. It seems that the conditions have been good for them this year, and the 500 Chrysolina beetles that were released last spring to try to control the St. John's wort were not enough to impact the level of invasion at this site.

St. John's wort (the red plants) and sulphur cinquefoil have heavily invaded a much greater area of Bald Range over the past year.

Several partner groups have resolved to renew efforts to enhance this site, and will work together with OCCP to create an action plan. Future actions proposed include:

  • volunteer clipping of the weeds at key times of year in collaboration with the Central Okanagan Naturalist Club
  • ordering more beetles to help control the St. John's wort
  • plant more native grasses and plants to improve diversity
  • tree pruning and selective thinning of trees to roll back forest encroachment and improve grassland habitat.

Forest encroachment is a disturbing green trend that is present here, in addition to the red one. Forests are slowly growing into the grassland areas as fire is suppressed in the region. Frequent, low intensity grass fires help keep grasslands open by clearing brush and small trees.

It is estimated that we have less than half of the grasslands today than we had in the Okanagan before European settlement. The grasslands that are not lost to development are often heavily impacted by the invasion of weeds and the surrounding forests. This important grassland needs some more help to recover from these invasions. The partners on this project agree that this grassland is worth fighting to recover, and they believe that it is not too late to turn back the tide.

Reflections on a Confluence

Various women were invited to take part in "Confluence: A Women's Water Circle."

In mid-October, a number of women water protectors, including OCCP Projects Coordinator Tanis Gieselman, were invited to take part in "Confluence: A Women's Water Circle."

This day-long gathering was part of the cross-border Columbia River Watershed Storytelling Project in partnership with the Okanagan Nation Alliance, Columbia Basin Transboundary Youth Network, IndigenEYEZ, UBC Okanagan Eco-Art Incubator, Okanagan Regional Library, and other partners.

This Confluence event was produced in collaboration with the UBCO Institute for Community Engaged Research’s Adaptation, De-colonization and Indigeneity cluster, the Faculty of Creative and Critical Studies, the Faculty of Medicine, supported by funding from the UBC Equity Enhancement Fund and the UBC Partnership Recognition Fund.

"Confluence: A Women's Water Circle" included prayers at Mission Creek, and presentations, poetry, song, discussion, and intention for protecting and respecting water in the Okanagan. The goal was to share the knowledge and experience of water, and inspire more grass-roots advocacy for the water. Tanis was grateful for the opportunity to be involved in this impactful event, and wanted to share some of the reflections she has had, some lessons she has learned, and some of the ripples of action that have resulted from this experience.

“A wide circle of over 40 women water-protectors stood shoulder to shoulder at Mission Creek that morning. We all smudged with sage, and lined up along the shoreline to add our hearts to the beating drums that accompanied the prayer song for the water, which was sung to the four directions.”

"A wide circle of over 40 women water-protectors stood shoulder to shoulder at Mission Creek that morning. We all smudged with sage, and lined up along the shoreline to add our hearts to the beating drums that accompanied the prayer song for the water, which was sung to the four directions. Water was collected from the creek to accompany us to a beautiful heritage hall down the road, where we met for the remainder of the day.

Keynote presenter Dr. Jeannette Armstrong shared with us an introduction to siwlkw (water). Although she was only able to share a little about the Traditional Knowledge and culture the syilx/Okanagan people have with water, it was clear that they have a very deep and intricate connection to water. I was particularly moved when Jeannette explained that the word for water is a combination of the nsyilcen words for humans drinking and animals lapping, which reflects the syilx ethic that both humans and animals have an equal right to the water. You could hear the emotion in her voice as she spoke passionately to the women in the room, imploring us to understand how much is at stake if we don't protect the water, and the urgent need for action.

During our discussion group, I asked the women at my table what they would want all school children to know about water, so that I could try to include that into a water-themed teacher resource guide that I am working on. They thought that the most important things that children should know are:

  • to drink and give thanks for the water first thing in the morning
  • we are water, and water is life, so water is our relative, and should be respected
  • water is healing and it is important to feel the water and experience it
  • the water feeds us with salmon
  • we must protect the water

At the end of the day the water that was with us in the meeting hall listening to our discussions, was offered to some of the women around the circle to take home with them. The women were asked to pray to the water and give thanks for the water every day for a full phase of the moon, then pour the water outside on a tree so the tree would take up the water and carry the prayers with it into the sky. This practice helps to bring water to the forefront in our minds so that we are more appreciative of water, we acknowledge how essential it is to our lives, and reminding us to take action to protect the water.

I promised to share the messages from the day with others. After the event, I shared this intention with 9 women water-protectors that I work with, and will continue to work to improve water protection and appreciation in the Okanagan in my life and my work. I hope that by reading this story, you have been inspired to give thanks to the water, and take action to enhance its protection in the Okanagan too."

Partner & Conservation News

Discussion Re-opens About the National Park in the South Okanagan

At the end of October the media was buzzing about renewed discussion around establishing a National Park in the South Okanagan. The federal and provincial governments and three area bands belonging to the Sylix/Okanagan Nation announced their commitment to work together to establish a national park reserve, which is a protected area that has an aboriginal land claim under negotiation with the federal government.

“We will work hard to make this happen, to preserve and protect the biodiversity of this special region, and for the positive contributions a national park reserve will make to the local economies,” said George Heyman, B.C. Minister of Environment and Climate Change Strategy, in the release.

“In 2002, I along with Senator Ross Fitzpatrick and others went to Ottawa to meet with the prime minister’s staff to explore the possibility of a national park in the South Okanagan,” said Chief Clarence Louie, the chief of the Osoyoos Indian Band. “More recently, in 2011 the Osoyoos Indian Band and Lower Similkameen Indian Band took the lead on behalf of the Okanagan Nation to develop a Syilx Feasibility Study to allow for the inclusion of the Okanagan Nation perspectives.”

Read more about this story from the Okanagan Nation Alliance.

Thompson-Okanagan Receives Biosphere Sustainable Tourism Designation

Only six months after signing the Letter of Commitment for Responsible Tourism, Thompson Okanagan became this Wednesday the first 'Biosphere' sustainable destination in the Americas. This certificate recognizes the quality, environmental sustainability and social responsibility of Thompson Okanagan as a tourism destination; a prize for the work done by the tourism sector achieved through public-private collaboration.

Only six months after signing the Letter of Commitment for Responsible Tourism, Thompson Okanagan became... the first 'Biosphere' sustainable destination in the Americas. This certificate recognizes the quality, environmental sustainability and social responsibility of Thompson Okanagan as a tourism destination...

Patricio Azcárate Díaz de Losada, Director of the Responsible Tourism Institute, attended the "Annual General Meeting & Tourism Summit" to present the reasons Thompson Okanagan has been awarded the Biosphere Destination category. To be a member of the “Biosphere Destinations Community” is to belong to a destination club whose sustainability is guaranteed by globally agreed criteria in conferences sponsored by UNESCO and UNWTO. The “Biosphere Destinations” are destinations that carry out an integral measurement of their contribution to the 17 United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) and to the Paris Agreement on Climate Change through the guidelines set forth in the World Charter for Sustainable Tourism +20.

The Biosphere Destination seal is based on a certification system that, in addition to establishing quality and environmental criteria, includes sustainability requirements such as social responsibility, conservation of cultural property, satisfaction of tourists' expectations and the improvement of the quality of life of the population that welcomes tourists. The tourism sector in the region of Thompson Okanagan will be, thanks to the certification, recognized as the main industry at a local level, capable of promoting, through its transversality, the responsible and sustainable management in economic, socio-cultural and environmental terms of its heritage.

The Biosphere certification is built on standards based on the UN 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) of the 2030 Agenda, following the guidelines and recommendations of the World Charter for Sustainable Tourism +20 proclaimed in World Summit on Sustainable Tourism sponsored by COP21, UNESCO, UNWTO and UNEP. Read more here.

A River Film

The Okanagan Basin Water Board (OBWB) and its Okanagan WaterWise program teamed up with the International Joint Commission and the Washington State Department of Ecology on a new documentary, “A River Film,” telling the story of Okana(o)gan River, a unique transboundary waterway that straddles the Canada - U.S. border.

Breathtaking film footage provides a spectacular look at the river and Osoyoos Lake. We visit the sites, meet the people and other creatures that live in the area, and look at the many competing needs for the water and how this is managed. Watch the trailer here.

A premiere was held Oct. 17 as part of the International Osoyoos Lake Board of Control's Annual Meeting. A follow-up screening was held at Oliver Theatre on Oct. 25. We look forward to screening it again during UN World Water Day/Canada Water Week festivities in March (March 18-24), and will also be providing DVD copies to community groups and schools that wish to show it. Contact OBWB Communications Director This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.if you're interested.

Removal and Replacement of Invasive Plants to Adapt for Climate Change

A grade 4/5 class from Okanagan Landing Elementary School went to Vernon’s Lakeshore Park to plant 200 native trees and shrubs.

The impact of invasive plants on the shoreline of Okanagan Lake is motivating a grade 4/5 class from Okanagan Landing Elementary School to head to Vernon’s Lakeshore Park today armed with shovels and gloves. They are going to plant 200 native trees and shrubs alongside staff with the Okanagan and Similkameen Invasive Species Society (OASISS) in a location that previously supported a large patch of invasive yellow flag iris.

Staff with OASISS removed approximately 400 kilograms of yellow flag iris from Lakeshore Park in late August.

The area is being replanted with native species including red-osier dogwood, sandbar willow, mountain alder, rose and snowberry.

Despite its attractiveness, yellow flag iris is extremely problematic:

  • it alters water flow
  • competes with native plants
  • impacts fish habita
  • impacts bird nesting and rearing areas

“While the invasive iris is already established in many riparian locations in the Okanagan, it has the potential to expand its range significantly as a consequence of climate change and by continued planting by residents that are not aware of its invasive qualities,” explains Lisa Scott, Program Manager with OASISS. This two-year project is supported by the Government of Canada through the EcoAction Community Funding Program. Learn more about this project here.

‘Wild Animal Olympics’ at the EECO Centre

Wild animals are natural athletes, well adapted to their environment for survival. Some run fast. Others swim long distances or soar to great heights. Animals achieve their place on the podium by chasing their prey or finding safe nesting places to raise their young. Learn about these amazing accomplishments at the ‘Wild Animal Olympics’ exhibit in the EECO in Mission Creek Regional Park, Springfield and Durnin Roads. The exhibit runs from November 3rd until April.

The Environmental Education Centre for the Okanagan or EECO is open from 10:00 am to 3:00 pm Tuesday through Sunday. For more information on this and other EECO programs, check out ‘Your Guide to Regional Parks’, visit the Regional District website ( or contact the EECO at 250-469-6140.

Supporting Our Species - SOS

Land Trust Discovers the Proof is in the Protection

The Central Okanagan Land Trust (COLT) Directors lead several environmental monitoring initiatives on the conservation lands that they are entrusted with. This year there have been plant surveys, bat surveys, and camera trap surveys. The most recent camera traps put out by Hugh Westheuser have captured some incredibly elusive creatures making use of some of these protected natural spaces. The gifts of land that Okanagan residents have pledged for conservation have provided habitat for a great diversity of wildlife! The picture on the left from late September is suspected to be a timberwolf. The image was sent to members of the Central Okanagan Naturalists Club (CONC), a number of Biology Profs. at UBC, and a retired Provincial Ecosystems Biologist.

The consensus is that it looks like a Wolf, but there is not enough of the animal in the image to make a positive call.

"I personally compared it to a number of Coyote pictures that were taken this past year", says Hugh. "This is a more robust animal, with shorter hair, a longer face and a larger head, and the fur colour appears to be darker. I am calling it a “Wolf”."

The photo on the right shows an American Badger, caught in a camera trap as it patrols it's large territory at the end of August. If you see a badger or a den, make sure to report it to Badgers in BC. See the Provincial Badger Recovery Strategy for more information about badgers.

The consensus is this looks like a timberwolf, but there's not enough of the animal visible to make a positive call.
An American Badger, caught in a camera trap as it patrols it's large territory.

Conferences & Workshops

Upcoming Webinars

SCCP Webinar Species at Risk - On the Ground Policy

November 14, Webinar

South Coast Conservation Program is pleased to offer "Species at Risk - On the Ground Policy", the fourth in a series of webinars focusing on the regulatory responsibilities, tools and resources to address stewardship and protection responsibilities for species at risk and their critical habitat during development and other land use activities. View the entire series on the SCCP YouTube Channel.
Click here to register.

Creating Sustainable Funding for Ecosystems and Watersheds

November 15, Webinar Series

Did you miss this presentation at the "Different by Design" conference in Nelson in September? Rural communities are challenged to attract sustainable funding for conservation efforts, including supporting watershed protection and restoration. The first part of this webinar will focus on watersheds and opportunities for new partnerships that can bring new dollars to watershed protection. The second part of this webinar will focus on the Columbia Valley Local Conservation Fund, a tax-based fund for conservation that was the first of its kind in Canada. Speakers are Dr. Tara Lynne Clapp (Senior Manager for the Columbia Basin Watershed Network and Adjunct Professor, Great Plains IDEA Program, Iowa State University) and Juliet Craig (KCP Program Manager). Contact Monique Frith at 204-922-1878 or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. with questions.
Click here to register.

Beginner Birding Workshops

Always want to learn about birds and don't know where to start? Join Okanagan Similkameen Stewardship for a Birding for Beginners workshop in your community.

Workshops will include introduction to bird anatomy, how to get started, tools, guide and apps. In addition, we’ll discuss how to attract birds to your property using different feeders, feed and nest boxes. Weather permitting, we’ll head outdoors to practice these new skills. Workshops are free, but space is limited to 20 participants, so register for your neighbourhood here. Watch for future workshops in Vernon, Penticton, Keremeos and Summerland.

Building SustainABLE Communities Conference

Handbill with details about the conference

Restoration for Resilience Conference

The SER Restoration for Resilience conference will be in Burnaby, BC from February 13-17, 2018.

Abstract Submission Deadline: October 6th.

In 250 words or less, develop your abstract for Restoration for Resilience. Don't miss out on your opportunity to present at our conference in Burnaby, BC from February 13-17, 2018. Submit your abstract here.

Volunteers Wanted!

We are on the lookout for creative, hardworking individuals who can help out for 8-10 hours during Restoration for Resilience. You have your choice of several roles, and enthusiasm is the primary qualification! As an added bonus, volunteers will receive a discount on registration - not to mention a free T-shirt. Sign up to volunteer. Visit the website for more information, and to contact the team with your questions.



Our 6th annual event!
Saturday, November 18, Schubert Centre, noon to 3 pm.

Come, bring the kids, and experience (with ‘take-home’ instructions) short, easy, but cost effective demos for foods, sachets, toys, knitting, kids’ toys, candles, soaps and more! Let’s get away from consumerism and put the heart back in the holidays! Schubert Centre’s Thrift Store and cafe will be open!

Sponsor: Sustainable Environment Network Society

Pecha Kucha Night

November 23rd, 7 - 9 pm, Schubert Centre.

Here, with the aims to connect and improve SENS' positive community work, local groups will present briefly about what they do, provide a short future-wish-list, then discuss positive actions in break-out sessions. Join us to help move Vernon towards a sustainable, regenerative region. Your ideas are welcome!

Sponsor: Sustainable Environment Network Society.

Funding Opportunities

The City of Vernon

Application Deadline: November 14

The Environmental Planning Assistant has launched a Sustainability Grants program for up to $1000 per small projects open to community and non-profits contributing to Vernon. Read more here.

Habitat Stewardship Program

Application Deadline: TBA

As part of Canada's national strategy for the protection of species at risk, the Government of Canada established the Habitat Stewardship Program (HSP) for Species at Risk. The overall goals of the HSP are to "contribute to the recovery of endangered, threatened, and other species at risk, and to prevent other species from becoming a conservation concern, by engaging Canadians from all walks of life in conservation actions to benefit wildlife." Read more here.

EcoAction Community Funding

Application Deadline: Fall 2017

EcoAction Call for Proposals will be communicated via email only. To be added to the distribution list, please contact your regional office.

The EcoAction Community Funding Program funds projects across Canada to encourage Canadians to take action to address clean air, clean water, climate change and nature issues, and to build the capacity of communities to sustain these activities into the future. Read more here.

RBC Blue Water Project Community Action and Leadership Grants

Application Deadline: Open now.

The RBC Blue Water Project is a wide-ranging program dedicated to protecting the world's most precious natural resource: fresh water. We support initiatives that help protect water in our growing towns and cities. Read more here.

Employment and Volunteer Opportunities

Okanagan Similkameen Stewardship seeks directors

Okanagan Similkameen Stewardship is currently seeking candidates for 2 to 4 positions on our Volunteer Board of Directors. We are looking for individuals from a diverse range of backgrounds and experiences who are keen to fulfill our vision of stewardship, conservation and enhancement of important habitats for wildlife on private lands and throughout communities of the Okanagan and Similkameen valleys. For more information visit our website.

We are also looking for an energetic, self-starting biologist with a demonstrated ability to communicate with the public and stakeholders to join our team in the North Okanagan. If that sounds like you, view the full job description here.