Steeves/Trail Mix: A little long-term thinking needed

Stuck in the present, must we continue to make the mistakes that have imperilled the natural world, or can we begin to think ahead?

As farmland and buildings cover the Okanagan's valley bottom and creep up the hillsides, they're crowding out habitat for wildlife, birds and even fish. It's not sustainable.

As I’ve listened this week to dire predictions about our future if we don’t slow growth; about the harm our industrial farming practices are doing to the environment; and about efforts to conserve some slices of wild land for birds, fish and wildlife and their habitat, I’m both depressed and encouraged.

I hold out little hope that we will be able to turn this big ship called Earth around before we’ve irreparably harmed what’s left of its natural resources.

We just don’t seem willing to consider the possible impacts our actions today could have on the future.

On the other hand, it’s refreshing to hear about collaborations like the South Okanagan Similkameen Conservation Program and the Okanagan Collaborative Conservation Program, its counterpart in the north half of the valley, and the work they’re doing to ensure natural features around the valley are protected from agriculture or other development.

They’ve begun by assessing what’s there, whether its riparian areas, wetlands or grasslands, and then taking steps to promote ecologically-sustainable practices and develop strategies for improving biodiversity and conserving those natural features.

Top of the agenda is to maintain connectivity, particularly since the Okanagan Valley is a key north-south corridor for wildlife, as Bryn White of the SOSCP and Carolina Restrepo-Tomayo of the OCCP told delegates to this week’s Building Sustainable Communities conference in Kelowna.

A total of 60 per cent of the Okanagan Basin consists of ecosystems that are high priority—either rare, at risk or sensitive, while 13 per cent are biodiversity hotspots, particularly in the valley bottom, where humans have settled.

Human settlements and transportation routes are barriers to wildlife, so that’s of grave concern.

And, only 10 per cent is designated for conservation, they warned.

In addition, the valley has already lost 85 per cent of its natural wetlands, much of that along rivers like the Okanagan and Mission Creek, which have been channelized and infilled.

As part of the Okanagan Wetlands Strategy, make sure you take a few minutes to fill in the online survey to help gather information for the strategy. It’s at: www.surveymonkey.com/s/okanagan_wetlands_strategy_phase1

If rivers hold interest for you, or history, or river rafting, river fishing or riverside hiking, then you should head down to Mosaic Books this afternoon, Fri., Nov. 29, 1 to 4 p.m. to meet Bernie Fandrich and have him sign your copy of his new book, British Columbia’s Majestic Thompson River.

Otherwise, the book will be available at Mosaic Books and other bookstores in the Okanagan, as is a freshly-updated edition of Okanagan Trips and Trails, by myself and Murphy Shewchuk. It’s a comprehensive guidebook to backroads and hiking trails throughout the Okanagan and Similkameen.

Both would make great gifts.

Judie Steeves writes about outdoors issues for the Capital News.

jsteeves@kelownacapnews.com

 

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