You can help prevent destruction of habitat on the Grand Forks Grasslands
SILT needs to raise $35,000 to build wildlife-friendly fences on its Grand Forks Grasslands property and to purchase a cattleguard to keep cows from entering the grasslands from the public road.
After local school children spent Earth Day there this spring planting trees, cattle have entered the property and trampled much of the freshly-planted area. Professional guidance for the planting was provided by staff from Interfor and the trees were also donated by the lumber company. The trespass by cattle has also delayed recovery of habitat that supports a variety of species-at-risk on the property, and has impacted habitat values for other plants and wildlife.
SILT prohibits trespass by cattle and by wheeled vehicles on all its properties to prevent such damage to wildlife habitat.
However, the fencing around the Grand Forks Grasslands properties recently purchased by SILT, is derelict and needs to be repaired or replaced. Some areas are not fenced. There is matching government funding available to build wildlife-friendly fencing if SILT can raise the estimated $35,000 required as matching funds.
SILT hoped to achieve a collaborative solution to the issue of cattle trespass, by working with its neighbours, the adjacent range agreement holder and the B.C. Ministry of Forests, but efforts to date have not been effective. The ministry and the range holder respond that it is the responsibility of our not-for-profit society to fence cattle out. Until we can do that, cattle will continue to trespass on our conservation lands.
The issues are complicated and will take time to resolve, but in the meantime, SILT is acting to defend the conservation of habitat for wildlife and the investment of its donors and supporters. You can help by donating toward this important project.
The Southern Interior Land Trust has purchased the 16.6-hectare (41-acre) Bourguiba Spring property on Highway 3, three kilometres southeast of Osoyoos.
Achieving this goal in just a few months is due to the support of a variety of donors, including the South Okanagan Conservation Fund, the Wild Sheep Society of BC, the BC Conservation Foundation, the Okanagan-Similkameen Parks Society, the B.C. Parks Foundation, the Government of Canada through the Natural Heritage Conservation Program, part of Canada’s Nature Fund, and dozens of non-profits, companies and individuals who donated what they could.
The Bourguiba Spring property is a steep, south-facing grassland with rock outcroppings above a ravine that protects a groundwater spring—the source of Bourguiba Creek, which flows into Haynes Creek, a tributary of Osoyoos Lake.
Its steep slopes of sagebrush, bunchgrass, and scattered pines are home to California bighorn sheep, provide spring range for mule deer, and habitat for many species-at-risk, such as badger (endangered), rattlesnake (threatened), screech owl (threatened), and half-moon Hairstreak (endangered).
Conservation of this habitat protects valuable undeveloped land for wildlife in a rapidly developing area as well as offering opportunities for the public to enjoy birding, hiking and other outdoor activities in a natural setting with panoramic views.
SILT President Judie Steeves commented, “This is a beautiful piece of natural Okanagan landscape, where the aroma of sage and pinesap remind me of my childhood growing up in this valley. I’ve been sad to see so many of these natural features paved and built over in my lifetime and it’s very rewarding for me personally to participate in conserving a site where delicate mariposa lilies bend in the breeze, and I can hear the meadowlark’s melody.”
She thanked everyone who pulled together to help SILT purchase the property in such a short timeframe.
The twin crises of climate change and biodiversity loss are two sides of the same coin, and we must tackle them together. By working with partners such as The Southern Interior Land Trust and generous donors, we are helping to protect the natural environment in British Columbia and across the country. Protecting lands plays a vital role in helping to halt and reverse biodiversity loss and contributes to the recovery of species at risk. Through programs like the Natural Heritage Conservation Program, the Government of Canada is making progress toward its goal of conserving a quarter of lands and oceans in Canada by 2025, working toward 30 percent of each by 2030
– The Honourable Steven Guilbeault, Minister of Environment and Climate Change
The Wild Sheep Society of BC is incredibly grateful to support this important land purchase which will help sustain wild sheep on the Okanagan landscape. We are thankful SILT has offered us this opportunity to be part of another land acquisition and support BC’s wild sheep.
– Kyle Stelter, Chief Executive Officer, Wild Sheep Society of BC
The Okanagan Similkameen Parks Society takes great pride in contributing to SILT’s acquisition of’ Lot 16 near Osoyoos. We feel that the lot, with its spring and diverse plant and animal life, provides much needed large animal connectivity and protection for larger wildlife in the area. We hope that, as a model of cooperation, Lot 16 is only an initial project of this sort in the southern interior.
– Ian Graham, President OSPS
Bourguiba Spring is just one of many properties SILT either owns, or which SILT has helped to acquire for other conservation organizations in the Southern Interior of B.C.
With the support of the public and their donations, SILT can continue to be responsive to seizing opportunities to conserve other important habitats as they come available. To donate, go to SILT’s website: siltrust.ca/donate. SILT wishes to thank the following organizations and individuals for their generous donations towards the acquisition of the Bourguiba Spring Property:
SILT is a registered not-for-profit charitable organization dedicated to conserving land for wildlife and other living things. In particular, SILT has worked for more than 30 years with a focus on securing gems of habitat as stepping-stones that allow wildlife to move through landscapes impacted by human development or activities.
For media enquiries: SILT Executive Director Al Peatt: 250-328-4699
Julien is a mature student majoring in Natural Resources Science (BNRS) at Thompsons Rivers University (TRU) in Kamloops who has had a fascination with animals for as long as he could remember. He is passionate about the natural sciences and feels privileged to live in a region where the natural environment is abundant and accessible.
“I take my career path seriously and feel obliged to pay back the communities that have supported me, either directly or indirectly, in my journey,” he states.
Julien has volunteered for an array of projects, conducting yearly breeding owl surveys for Birds Canada, and coordinating volunteers for the SIMDeer citizen science project. His pastimes include backcountry skiing, hiking, canoeing and hunting that sparked his endless curiosity and lent themselves to working in field biology and community engagement. Julien is currently conducting research at John Prince Research Forest near Fort St James, BC with funding assistance from the Undergraduate Research Experience Award Program (UREAP) at TRU. He is investigating competitive dynamics between American Red Squirrels and Northern Flying Squirrels. Julien believes his success as an ecologist/ biologist is dependent on his ability to embrace both human and non-human communities to create and maintain balance for more sustainable relationships.
“I want to harness my creativity and passion for wildlife to produce both good scientific work and to help connect communities to their natural surroundings by generating interest in ecological topics while promoting environmental stewardship.”
With special thanks to the JB Holdstock Scholarship Committee members:
Seeing the patch of black mud is a jolt in a rolling sea of new spring green on the hills north of Grand Forks—the damage caused by a vehicle driving off into the grasslands recently purchased by the Southern Interior Land Trust to conserve habitat.
But on Earth Day, Apr. 22, a group of students from Perley Elementary School accepted seedling trees, a small shovel and detailed instruction from Interfor professionals, then went off into the damaged areas to take on the responsibility of restoration.
Both silviculture supervisor Jamie Hibberson and environment and land use superintendent Randy Waterous of Interfor organized the day and not only helped the students out in their task, but rewarded them with hotdogs for lunch.
Tramping through muddy areas where tires had churned up the budding wildflowers and fresh grasses, the grade six and seven class of Sarah Mace spread out with their shovels and yellow pine seedlings and worked all morning.
In all, they planted nearly 300 seedling trees with the intention of returning often in the future to watch them grow and provide shade for Chocolate Lilies and Arnica, and habitat for the wide variety of birds which call this grassland home. Mature trees, even once they die and begin to decay, provide vital homes, shelter and foraging for more than 70 species of birds and wildlife, insects, fungi, mosses and lichens
“It was an inspiring day, to watch all these young people talking to their little trees and encouraging them to be happy,” commented SILT president Judie Steeves, with a grin, adding, “They really seemed to take their job seriously and realize restoring the land to its natural habitat is important.”
If further vandalism to this land is prevented, the little trees will grow tall and strong and anchor the land from melting snow, which today is flowing down the fresh tire ruts and down the track, eroding the earth and carrying it away down the hill.
In 2020, SILT bought this 109-hectare parcel of open bunchgrass with thickets of aspen and hawthorn, District Lot 492, to conserve it for a herd of bighorn sheep and the deer who are desperate for the late winter flush of green provided here.
It was found that rattlesnakes, gopher snakes, spadefoot toads, tiger salamander and badger also make this home, as well as a great variety of birds, some endangered.
The purchase was a joint effort of the family of the late Walter Mehmal; the B.C. Conservation Foundation Land for Wildlife Fund; the Brandow family; the Wild Sheep Society of B.C., the Grand Forks Wildlife Association and other donors and SILT supporters.
Later that year, an additional 35 hectares of an adjacent property, Lot A of DL 493, also at the end of Morissey Creek Road, was purchased for the same reasons, and with some of the same support, with the addition of Tom and Jeninfer Foss and the Wild Sheep Foundation of Alberta, The Habitat Conservation Trust Fund and the Government of Canada through its Natural Heritage Conservation Program.
Both acreages are open to enjoyment by the public, for hiking, birdwatching, picnics, photography and other recreational pursuits, but the use of motorized vehicles on either property is illegal.
“Our hope is that our Grand Forks Grasslands will continue to provide healthy, natural wildlife habitat forever,” Steeves added.