Take action for wildlife and habitat in British Columbia’s Okanagan Valley

Take action for wildlife and habitat in British Columbia’s Okanagan Valley

Conservation Northwest / Jan 14, 2019 / Action Alert, British Columbia, Connecting Habitat, Sagelands

WILD NW Action Alert #286: Through February 28th, you can show support for a new national park reserve on the U.S.-Canada border.

Just north of the international border near Osoyoos, British Columbia, lies a vast landscape with rolling hills of sagebrush and sweeping valleys dotted with groves of ponderosa pines.

A herd of Bighorn Sheep overlook Vaseaux Lake, near the proposed South Okanagan-Similkameen National Park Reserve. Photo: South Okanagan-Similkameen National Park Network

Known in Canada as the South Okanagan-Similkameen region and adjacent to north-central Washington’s Okanogan Valley, it’s vital habitat for many species, including bighorn sheep, sharp-tailed grouse, mule deer and one-third of British Columbia’s red-listed (endangered) wildlife. It also features a great diversity of terrestrial birds, from nesting bald eagles to peregrine falcons and western screech owls.

Though this landscape has some protected areas, including Snowy Mountain Protected Area which we helped secure in the early 2000’s, they’re fragmented. For years, we’ve worked with the Wilderness Committee, the Lower Smilkameen Indian Band and other partners to support Parks Canada’s proposal to permanently preserve and connect important landscapes in this region by establishing the South Okanagan-Similkameen (SOS) National Park Reserve.

Now, Parks Canada is in the final stages of approving the park, and you can show your support for the permanent protection of this region’s wildlife and habitat!

Parks Canada recently launched an online public consultation process to gather feedback on the proposed park reserve through February 28th, 2019. The results from this consultation could determine whether or not the establishment of the park proceeds, and if it does, what it will look like and how it will be managed.

The South Okanagan-Similkameen National Park Reserve Regional Context map. Click for a larger version!

Containing shrub-steppe biodiversity common in the western United States but unique in Canada, the South Okanagan-Similkameen region is especially critical for habitat connectivity, and in a changing climate, such connectivity will be vital for the long-term survival of many species in the region. This region is also the northernmost section in the “Connected Backbone” of important habitat linkages in our Sagelands Heritage Program, which works to maintain, restore and connect shrub-steppe landscapes from British Columbia’s Okanagan Valley (where the proposed park is located) to south-central Washington’s Horse Heaven Hills.

The establishment of the SOS National Park Reserve would not only have tremendous benefits for wildlife, but local economies on both sides of the border, too. This park would provide incredible outdoor recreation opportunities and bring increased tourism for enjoying its rich natural and cultural heritage.

Your help is needed to establish this park, which will connect habitat across the U.S.-Canada border that is essential for a multitude of wildlife! The SOS National Park Reserve is expected to draw visitors from both sides of the border, so input from U.S. residents is welcome at this time.

To show your support for permanently protecting this important landscape, please visit Parks Canada’s online consultation website and register to take their survey. Please feel free to copy and paste the suggested comments below in the survey’s final section for additional suggestions, comments or questions.

South Okanagan-Similkameen National Park Reserve video

South Okanagan-Similkameen National Park Reserve on Vimeo.

Suggested comments for Parks Canada on the SOS National Park Reserve

I am commenting in support of the proposed South Okanagan-Similkameen National Park Reserve. As someone who values public lands, recreation opportunities and the protection of wildlife, I believe the establishment of this park will benefit local communities and important habitat.

Wildlife such as mule deer, bighorn sheep and sharp-tailed grouse need to migrate through this region, and protecting this migration corridor will allow them to move freely across the U.S.-Canada border. As development and fragmentation continue to threaten wildlife populations, they will need all the protected habitat they can in coming years.

If this area becomes a national park reserve, I will definitely plan on visiting in the future, and am confident that I will be joined by not only other Americans, but outdoor enthusiasts across the globe as well.

I understand that grazing in the park will be permitted, and respect Parks Canada’s efforts to support local landowners and ranchers. I think it would be good to monitor the continued grazing in the park to make sure wildlife and livestock are compatible.

One question I have about the proposed park is, why aren’t the nearby Vaseux Lake and White Lake areas included in the park boundary, even though they are nationally-recognized Important Bird Areas? I support the inclusion of these areas in the National Park Reserve through appropriate consultation with local stakeholders and First Nations.

I recognize this is a Canadian decision and appreciate the consideration for outside input in this process as these areas are of significance to people and wildlife on both sides of the international border.



British Columbia’s South Okanagan Region. Photo: Parks Canada