The Nature Conservancy of Canada, a private, non-profit conservation agency, announced the addition of 126 hectares (311 acres) to the Sage and Sparrow Conservation Area along the Canada-U.S. border on Dec. 15.
Roughly 30 minutes west of Osoyoos, the conservation area now encompasses over 1,500 hectares (3,750 acres) of rare grasslands and interior Douglas-fir forest at the confluence of the Okanagan and Similkameen valleys. This area is within the traditional territories of the Syilx (Okanagan) Peoples.
The Sage and Sparrow Conservation Area is nestled within the provincial South Okanagan Grasslands Protected Area. The new addition extends the conservation area to the north, filling in a gap in a north-south conservation corridor in one of the country’s rarest and most threatened ecosystems.
The area is the northernmost tip of the arid, desert-like ecosystem that extends through central Washington State.
“The work we are doing in this imperilled landscape is critical for the plants, animals and ecosystems here, not only in the face of climate change, but in the face of ongoing development pressure. Thanks to the generous support of our donors and partners, the Nature Conservancy of Canada is able to move efficiently and effectively with willing landowners to conserve their lands. We have made a tangible difference here,” said Barb Pryce, Southern Interior program director for the Nature Conservancy of Canada
This project became a reality due to the contributions of many funders, including the Government of Canada through the Natural Heritage Conservation Program, part of Canada’s Nature Fund, the Regional District of Okanagan-Similkameen, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, The Sitka Foundation, Okanagan Similkameen Parks Society, Oliver Osoyoos Naturalists Club, South Okanagan Naturalists’ Club and individual donors.
The land provides essential habitat for 62 confirmed at-risk plants and animals, some of which are found nowhere else in Canada. Several species are listed under Canada’s Species at Risk Act, including western tiger salamander, southern mountain population (endangered), western rattlesnake (threatened), Great Basin gophersnake (threatened), Great Basin spadefoot (threatened) and Lewis’ woodpecker (threatened).
The Sage and Sparrow Conservation Area shares a significant portion of its border with the South Okanagan Grasslands Protected Area. It forms an integral habitat link between protected areas that allows for the movement of species between the Similkameen and Okanagan valleys.
The Sage and Sparrow Conservation Area is open to the public for walk-in access only.