By: Gordon Wilson
A six-hectare (14-acre) parcel of pristine sage and bunchgrass hillside near Osoyoos has been committed to the Southern Interior Land Trust (SILT) while on their first ever bus tour of the land trust properties on Saturday, Oct. 14.
One of the three stops during the bus tour was at the 16.6-hectare (41-acre) Bourguiba Spring property, purchased just last year with the support of dozens of donors from around the province. It was at this stop that Steinar Johnsen, owner of an adjacent property announced the commitment of land.
The Bourguiba Spring property on Highway 3, is three kilometres southeast of Osoyoos.
Johnsen explained that he has always turned to nature to “recharge his batteries” and he hopes his four new neighbours on the property he just subdivided and is building his home on, will feel as passionately as he about conservation of natural areas.
SILT president Judie Steeves thanked Johnsen for the donation of land.
“It takes a commitment from each of us to ensure habitat for wildlife is conserved for all time. Everyone needs to give what they can, whether it be time and energy, financial support, or gifts of skills or natural land features. Otherwise, our children’s children won’t know the wildflowers and creatures which have brought us joy during our lives,” said Steeves.
From bighorn sheep to endangered bird and insect species, the property is considered very good quality habitat confirms biologist Jason Jones of EcoLogic Consultants. He has been working on a University of Guelph invertebrates study on the Bourguiba Spring property this past summer. He figures he collected six million insects from the property for the survey.
During his time there he says one day he counted 27 rattlesnakes in just a 15-minute hike and there are more than 80 bird species and three dozen butterfly species, including the endangered Behr’s Hairstreak butterfly, which relies entirely on Antelope Brush for its existence.
Ecologist Don Gayton, who provided interpretive information for the tour guests, noted that the bluebunch wheatgrass that populates the rocky hillsides of the property are a great carbon capture mechanism due to their vast network of roots.
Those along on the day-long bus tour included representatives of the B.C. Conservation Foundation, the RDOS, the Nature Conservancy of Canada, local naturalists’ clubs, and other donors to SILT’s work.
The first stop was to the R.E. Taylor property in Olalla, a 4.9-hectare (12-acre) intact wetland of mature water birch and cottonwoods on Keremeos Creek that is habitat for such endangered species as the Yellow-breasted Chat.
Next was a visit to restoration of Ginty’s Pond in Cawston where B.C. Wildlife Federation staff and volunteers were working with members of the Lower Similkameen Indian Band and SILT to re-vegetate the margins of the pond to enhance the habitat for aquatic species such as the Painted Turtle and a variety of waterfowl. It is a 6.3-hectare (15.5-acre) former oxbow of the Similkameen River.
All of SILT’s properties are open to the public for non-motorized use and enjoyment without endangering natural features.
The tour wound up with a wine-tasting courtesy of Hester Creek Winery where SILT board member and marketing manager for the winery, Bruce Hibbard provided a tour of the crush pad and barrel room.