This fall, LightHawk partnered with the Southern Interior Land Trust (SILT), a Canadian nonprofit that works to acquire fish and wildlife habitats for habitat connectivity in British Columbia. SILT facilitates research on how lynx and bobcats move across landscapes straddling the Canada and the US border. In Washington, lynx are state-listed as endangered, while in British Columbia, they’re commercially harvested for fur. Collecting lynx and bobcat movement data is critical to improving how the cats are managed on both sides of the border, and to prioritize migration corridors to help lynx populations recover in Washington. Bobcats share summer habitat with lynx, and knowing how lynx interact with bobcats will help managers in both countries protect habitat effectively for both species.
Quickly collecting the collars and the precious movement data they contain is paramount— if winter hits before the collars are located the batteries would die and the data would be lost.
OUTCOME: With Volunteer Pilot Dave Riffle’s expert aerial backcountry navigating skills, SILT was able to pinpoint the collar locations, two of which would have likely never have been recovered otherwise due to their remote location.
Without LightHawk, our partners would have to track down the cats’ radio collars on foot and snowmobile over rugged terrain, an extremely difficult, time consuming and potentially dangerous job.
LightHawk’s Volunteer Pilots bring incredible dedicaton to conservation. Making an impact “is the greatest reward of my work with LightHawk. When we are flying missions, it is very gratifying to feel that I am making a difference right here, right now,” writes lynx mission pilot, Dave Riffle, who joined LightHawk in 2017. His dedication goes beyond flight. “SILT Executive Director, Al Peatt, and I became good friends after our LightHawk mission. He extended an invitation following the flight to join the effort to live trap, tranquilize and collar new lynx during the winter. i joined SILT’s team to ride out in a snowmobile for the daily “trap” check. Helping to collar a lynx, to feel the warmth of its fur despite the -5ºF temps, gave me a new perspective on the importance of protecting habitat and wildlife migration corridors between our two countries,” said Riffle.
The Southern Interior Land Trust (SILT) has, for over 30 years, worked in the southern interior of British Columbia to protect and preserve habitat for all living things. Natural lake shorelines, with their ribbon of native plants benefit wildlife and animal movement; protect properties from flood and erosion; and support ecological processes essential to clean, drinkable, swimmable, fishable water. Purchasing lakeshore for conservation is prohibitively expensive, so SILT is exploring other ways to spark widespread voluntary care of lakeshores to benefit all living things, including people.
SILT has partnered with Watersheds Canada and the Canadian Wildlife Federation to pilot the highly successful Love Your Lake (LYL) program for the first time in British Columbia, at Vaseux Lake and along the shore of Okanagan Lake in the District of Summerland. The LYL project will provide lakeshore landowners with a free, personalized and private evaluation of their shoreline, with specific actions for how to voluntarily protect and re-vitalize the shoreline to improve lake health while still maintaining their waterfront view.
Shoreline property owners will receive information about the program including an introductory letter and a values survey. Shorelines will be assessed by boat on a property-by-property basis by trained people using a standardized protocol and datasheet. Following the assessments, each shoreline property owner will receive another letter, typically in the spring, with a personal online access code needed to download their free report. The report will contain information about the state of their unique shoreline and suggestions of voluntary actions they can take, specifically tailored to their shoreline, to improve the health of their shoreline. Lake organizations and project partners will receive a lake summary report which generalizes the data over the entire assessed area and identifies community stewardship opportunities applicable to the entire lake shoreline.
All information contained in the individual shoreline property reports and lake summary reports is non-regulatory. All organizations involved in the LYL program take privacy issues very seriously.
This year, SILT will also be supporting the creation of up to three public shoreline restoration demonstration sites in various areas where landowners and others can see how lakeshore restoration works. SILT and the LYL program hope that both aspects of the project will continue in future years on other lakes. Funding and in-kind support for the LYL project has been provided by the South Okanagan Conservation Fund, the LYL Program, SILT, local government and other contributors.
Here is the link to the Love Your Lake program: www.LoveYourLake.ca
Tickets: Adult $30.00/ticket Children $5.00/ticket
Join Southern Interior Land Trust (SILT) President Ross Everatt, wildlife biologist Al Peatt, outdoors enthusiast and writer Judie Steeves, and cottonwood expert Kasey Moran for a walk and talk tour of SILT’s 20-hectare Cold Creek property near Keremeos. Over 200 plant and animal species occur here and the views of the river and surrounding mountains are spectacular. The property fronts the Similkameen River and extends from an intact cottonwood stand through dry shrub-steppe to steep cliffs, and includes a spring-fed year-round stream! The property has habitat for bighorn sheep, mountain goat, deer, bobcat, beaver, rattlesnake, woodpecker, butterflies and peregrine falcon. We’ll explore the diversity of ecosystems and wild life, learn about the private life of cottonwoods and why they are important to people too, and how conserving gems of habitat such as Cold Creek will help all living things for generations to come. Bring binoculars if desired. NOTE: Cold Creek is a gem of near-natural Similkameen wildlife habitat. There is cactus, poison ivy, unfenced riverfront, and the possibility of encountering rattlesnake at this property. This tour is brought to you in partnership with Southern Interior Land Trust.
Meeting Place: Either of two locations. Meet at 8:45 am at the Walmart Penticton parking lot near the auto repair area, and then rendezvous with remaining participants at 9:30 am at the Esso station parking lot in Keremeos located at the intersection of Hwy 3 and Hwy 3a.
Transportation will be via carpool.
For more information and to purchase tickets for this event click on this link to the Meadowlark Festival
The Southern Interior Land Trust has added two new board members in the past few months.
Timothy Broesch is a financial advisor with Edward Jones and lives in Okanagan Falls with his wife and four children.
He loves hunting, fishing, hiking and enjoying the outdoors with his family. He learned as a youngster living on a small ranch in Eastern Washington the importance of looking after our natural resources for the health of both people and animals.
“If you want healthy animals and a productive garden you must take care of them. That means keeping water clean, preventing over-grazing, regular removal of invasive species, as well as considering the needs of the wildlife on our land,” he comments.
He is hopeful when his children are grandparents that they will still have the option of enjoying outdoor recreational activities as they do now. Without protected areas for wildlife, he believes we all stand to lose.
Kasey Moran is a PhD candidate in John Richardson’s Stream and Riparian Areas Research Lab with the Forest and Conservation Sciences department of UBC Vancouver. Her research is focussed on rivers and cottonwood forests in the Similkameen, with an emphasis on the ecological effects of river engineering and prospects for restoration.
She has done thesis work around aquatic invertebrate responses to surface and groundwater interactions in streams. She has worked as an ecosystem technician for Canadian Wildlife Service and as a laboratory technician for an evolutionary genomics lab at UBC.
She also has a background in fine arts: her paintings have been exhibited at a small number of galleries in Penticton and Vancouver, and she has produced illustrations for scientific journals, teaching manuals, posters, and brochures.
For more than a decade she lived in the Penticton, Okanagan Falls and Twin Lakes areas and she still has connections to family and community there.
“I’m excited to take an active role in conserving wildlife habitat as a SILT board member,” she comments.