Saving homes for bighorn families
With longer days and sunny spring weather the bighorn ewe, heavy with her spring lamb, eagerly sought out tender grasses finally sprouting on the west-facing slope above the lake to graze on and get her strength back after a snowy winter in the Okanagan.
As she grazed, she was oblivious to the fact that she had wandered from the McTaggartCowan/ns?k’? niw’t Wildlife Management Area (WMA) onto private property.
It is land that could soon be covered with roads and houses instead of her native habitat: rugged, steep, rocky bluffs that would help to protect her newborn lamb from predators and open, shrubby grasslands dotted with ponderosa pines and Douglas firs.
If she and her companions in this herd of wild sheep are lucky, the people of B.C. will be moved to raise the funds necessary for The Nature Trust of B.C. to purchase this 35.4-hectare property and add it to the adjacent 114-hectare conservation area acquired by The Nature Trust in 1988 and 1989. It is now part of the 6,491-hectare McTaggart-Cowan/ ns?k’? niw’t WMA, which is dedicated to protection of the iconic Okanagan wild sheep.
Biologist Jasper Lament is CEO of The Nature Trust, and he explains this parcel is a key acquisition because it will expand the current critical habitat for wild sheep — along with that of other endangered wildlife, plants and birds that require similar habitat, including rattlesnakes, the white-throated swift and Lewis’s woodpecker.
The purchase would add to a connected series of conservation properties that begins in Penticton with the provincial Skaha Bluffs property and extends south along the east side of Skaha Lake, nearly to Vaseux Lake.
Lament was born and raised in B.C. to an outdoorsy family, and learned to fish in the Interior where he got hooked young and ended up doing his PhD on fish biology. Upon graduation, he became interested in non-government organizations and worked for Ducks Unlimited and BC Hydro before he joined The Nature Trust in 2012.
He’s passionate about the wild places in his home province, and the importance of conserving habitat before it disappears, particularly in the Okanagan where there are concentrations of nationally significant speciesat-risk. Only a fraction of the province contains the grassland ecosystems required for some of these species, he notes.
For this healthy band of bighorn sheep — accustomed historically to grazing these benchlands above Skaha Lake — purchase of this land before it’s built on is vital.
There’s a June 30 deadline to complete the purchase of this parcel, and fundraising efforts include a gala on June 24 at the Delta Grand Okanagan Resort in Kelowna, called Earth Wind Fire. It will open with live jazz, bubbly and appies while guests browse the silent auction items, followed by sizzling food stations featuring some of the province’s top chefs, wine and other beverages, a live auction and dance party.
Details of the event are available on The Nature Trust’s website, along with information about other ways to donate towards the purchase of this property: www.naturetrust.bc.ca
Since 1971, The Nature Trust and its partners have invested more than $90 million to secure more than 70,000 hectares of land for wildlife in B.C.
Bighorn ewes and lamb take in the scenery around Vaseux Lake. The Nature Trust of B.C. is raising funds to purchase a 35.4-hectare property to ensure the habitat for these animals, and other species.