Okanagan gains conservation efforts

Thanks to major support from funders, the Okanagan Collaborative Conservation Program (OCCP) is now active and ready to help co-ordinate local conservation efforts.

The Real Estate Foundation is contributing $95,000 over three years for core operating expenses and the salary of a co-ordinator. In addition, the B.C. Ministry of Environment and the Department of Fisheries and Oceans came through with funding support for OCCP co-ordinator activities during the spring of 2008.

The OCCP is a partnership of 24 organizations from all levels of government, NGO stewardship groups and land trusts in the north and central okanagan working towards stewardship outreach, identification of tools and information.

“The OCCP has now been able to move ahead with some exciting projects,” said co-ordinator Susan Latimer.

The Okanagan Basin Water Board has provided funding for foreshore inventory and mapping (FIM) around Okanagan Lake and habitat stewardship program funding helped to map wildlife corridors between key environmentally sensitive areas in the Vernon area.

The FIM project, which involves making high quality video record of the shoreline and inventory of habitat quality and alterations, such as docks, exemplifies the collaborative nature of OCCP projects.

This summer, the Ministry of Environment provided a boat and arranged a conservation core crew, while the Central Okanagan Regional District provided expertise, and the OCCP is helping with overall co-ordination of the project and report writing.

FIM involves making a video of the entire shoreline by boat and embedding GPS co-ordinates onto the video images.

The data compilation then involves tabulating the level of development, number of docks, habitat type, and other information for each shoreline section.

The current 2008 funding will allow completion of FIM on the northern third of the Okanagan.

For updates on the current FIM projects, check out the Okanagan Basin Water Board website.

CORD has already completed FIM for the central portion of Okanagan Lake.

The OCCP is also working with other partners in the South Okanagan on a strategy for completing FIM on the southern third of Okanagan Lake.

The OCCP would also like to secure additional funding to complete FIM for Kalamalka Lake and Wood Lake within the next few years. Upon completion, the final product will provide a baseline record of the state of Okanagan Lake’s foreshore, including video footage which is stamped with geographical coordinates, as well as a record of habitat type, habitat quality, and level of development and disturbance, and lakeshore structures such as docks.

The OCCP has already had some other great successes.

Through efforts with regional members of the OCCP, the Allan Brooks Nature Centre has co-ordinated partners in the completion of sensitive ecosystem inventory (SEI) mapping for several key areas in the North and Central Okanagan.

In an effort to make this data more useful to local government planning, sensitive ecosystem ranking (SER) maps were created which rank habitats according to their sensitivity (high, moderate or low sensitivity) and identify key movement corridors. The ABNC, Ministry of Environment and the Grasslands Conservation Council have worked together through the OCCP to assist local government planners in the City of Vernon, District of Coldstream and the North Okanagan Regional District in incorporating SEI and SER mapping into their development permit and planning processes.

“The first local government to use this information in planning documents is the City of Vernon,” said Latimer.

The city has utilized the SER maps in discussions of its transportation plan and environmental management area strategy, both parts of the new official community plan process.

The integration of this data into planning processes will help ensure connectivity of key habitats at a landscape scale within critical low elevation habitats of the Okanagan basin. Additional funding is expected through the Habitat Stewardship Program to complete SER mapping for areas of the Central Okanagan with SEI data available.