The BC Parks Foundation says it has already raised most of the $4 million purchase price to acquire 151 acres of prime waterfront land on Okanagan Lake.
If another $750,000 can be raised by July 15, this coveted land will be protected forever instead of developed.
“If there is one thing British Columbians love, it’s where we live,” said BC Parks Foundation CEO Andy Day.
“Tens of thousands of people have come together to protect 25 places throughout the province in the last five years, and now it’s the Okanagan’s chance to protect a special place near and dear to its heart.”
Kelowna resident Steve Thomson, a former MLA and provincial cabinet minister, called the land acquisition an exciting opportunity to protect a special area in its natural state.
“By coming together we can protect it from the potential for future development,” Thomson said.
The purchase helps support and kick off a larger campaign by the Okanagan Nation Alliance and the Okanagan Collaborative Conservation Program to create a wildlife corridor that runs 65 kilometres along the Okanagan watershed from Kalamalka Lake Provincial Park.
That is part of a larger vision to continue a corridor down into Washington State.
Dixon Terbasket, the cultural coordinator with the Okanagan Nation Alliance, sees the corridor and protection of lands in it as essential to survival.
“If we block the animals…we’re slowly going to peter out the numbers, the numbers are going to decrease, and we’re not going to have any more,” Terbasket said.
Protection of these remaining natural areas is critical with expansion of residential and agricultural growth, said Mary Ann Olson-Russello, a biologist with Ecoscape Environmental.
Much of the corridor area, and this lakefront property, are part of the Ponderosa Pine zone, which includes up to as many as 27 different ecological communities.
Some 26 (96 per cent) of those are rare-listed (red or blue) by the BC Conservation Data Centre.
Several of these are considered “critically imperiled” globally, yet only 6.2 per cent of the Ponderosa Pine zone is protected in B.C., says Olson-Russello.
“The park protects a whole host of species at risk,” added local resident and UBC Okanagan professor emeritus Ian Walker.
“There are elk and mountain goats and bighorn sheep down in the park, as well as cougars and bears. Golden eagles are known to nest in the park. And you just go on and on.”
Butterflies, turtles, badgers, and dragonflies are only a fraction of the 150 plus species who will all have a better chance at long term survival with this land protected and the corridor expanded, he noted.
Scott Boswell, program manager with the Okanagan Collaborative Conservation Program, emphasized this property is one of the key remaining private properties left along Okanagan Lake.
“It is so important for the entire region because it is one of the large fragments that we need to include into the park and to the connectivity to the other parks in the region as well,” Boswell said.
The BC Parks Foundation has been able to raise the bulk of the $4 million with the support of private funders like the Wilson 5 Foundation. Along with its local partners, it is now counting on Okanagan and B.C. communities to raise the remaining $750,000 before the July 15 deadline.
People interested in contributing can go to: https://bcparksfoundation.ca/projects/parks-bank/okanagan-mountain-park/.