Armed with garbage bags, shovels, gloves and a backhoe, volunteers last weekend removed everything from appliances and bedsprings to glass and tiles from a grassland near Grand Forks which was purchased earlier this year by the Southern Interior Land Trust (SILT).
The cleanup improves habitat for a herd of 200-300 California bighorn sheep, as well as spring and winter range for mule and white-tailed deer who rely on the open, rolling grassland dotted with aspen groves and black hawthorn.
It is also habitat for several species-at-risk, including snakes, spadefoot toad, tiger salamander and badger.
The volunteers were members of the Mehmal and Brandow families, the Grand Forks Wildlife Association, the Wild Sheep Society of BC., SILT and other local residents.
Formerly part of the Mehmal Ranch at the end of Morrissey Creek Road, D.L. 492 is 270 acres of excellent habitat for wildlife, notes Judie Steeves, president of SILT. Information signs have been posted identifying it as private property now conserved for wildlife.
The public is welcome to walk the property at their own risk, take photos and enjoy the natural beauty, but barriers and signs have been installed to inform people that motorized use is prohibited.
“The property has a history of damage from abuse by riders trespassing on their ATVs and motorbikes and from illegal dumping,” says Steeves. “We ask the community to respect that this is actually privately-owned land purchased with donations from a variety of sources to conserve its natural features for wildlife.”
SILT is a volunteer-run, not-for-profit charity that works to acquire gems and jewels of wildlife habitat that also act as “stepping-stones” for animal movement.
The grasslands surrounding Grand Forks are ecologically significant and host nationally-important and highly-diverse wildlife species.
“Acquiring D.L. 492 was made possible by the generosity of the family of the late Walter Mehmal; the B.C. Conservation Foundation; the Brandow family, the Wild Sheep Society of B.C. and its members; the Grand Forks Wildlife Association and other donors,” said Steeves.
SILT is currently working to acquire another 86 acres of wildlife habitat that lies adjacent to D.L. 492.