A conservation group is hoping that its recent purchase of a property near Grand Forks is going to be a big addition to protecting bighorn sheep habitat in the area.
The Southern Interior Land Trust has purchased 109 hectares (270 acres) of open, rolling hills of bunchgrass interspersed with patches of trembling aspen-rose thickets located just east of Grand Forks.
The property is year-round habitat for a healthy herd of 200 to 300 California bighorn sheep.
Rams and ewes of all ages use the land. It is also excellent winter and spring range for mule deer and white-tailed deer.
Several species-at-risk occur, including rattlesnake, gophersnake, spadefoot toad, tiger salamander and badger.
Southern Interior Land Trust is a volunteer-run, not-for-profit charity dedicated to conserving land for all living things. The Trust works to acquire those gems and jewels of wildlife habitat that also act as “stepping-stones” for animal movement through developed areas.
The property in question is low-elevation grassland adjacent to provincially designated bighorn sheep winter range and lies between two other private conservation properties, both of which provide secure connecting habitat to higher elevations for bighorn sheep, deer and other wildlife.
The Trust believes that maintaining non-mechanized public access to its lands rewards and further engages the people that support and benefit from habitat conservation, provided such use is safe, legal and protects the integrity of the land.
The property has had a decades-long history of cattle grazing and uncontrolled trespass for off-road ATV use.
This has caused some hill slope erosion and soil disturbance. To manage the property for wildlife, the Trust will work with its conservation partners, government, and local off-road and other interested groups to promote awareness, exclude cattle, restrict ATV use, and enhance the habitat value of the property.
“Southern Interior Land Trust is pleased to have purchased [the property] to protect some very important grassland habitat,” says president Ross Everatt. He said the property complements two other of the Trusts conservation properties in the Grand Forks area, Edwards Pond and at Wards Lake.
“Acquiring [the property] for conservation was made possible by the generous support of the former landowner; the BC Conservation Foundation; the Wild Sheep Society of BC and its members; the Grand Forks Wildlife Association; and other donors and Southern Interior Land Trust supporters.”