South Okanagan Wildlife Management Areas Aim to Preserve Endangered Species

South Okanagan Wildlife Management Areas Aim to Preserve Endangered Species

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In British Columbia, wildlife, fish, and their habitats may be categorized depending on level of concern warranted. To be red-listed means that, without changes, the species or subspecies ‘is extirpated, endangered, or threatened’. The Tiger Salamander is an example of such a species. They like to make their homes in deep burrows near water, and can live anywhere from ten to sixteen years. Further examples of red-listed species found in the South Okanagan include the Great Basin Pocket Mouse, The Western Screech Owl, Western Skink and the Yellow Breasted Chat.
Species may also be blue-listed, which means there is a concern that they are on the way to becoming red-listed. There are many blue-listed species indigenous to this area, including Monarch butterflies, Bighorn sheep, and several species of bat.
Last Tuesday there was a public meeting held at the community center to provide information regarding 24 parcels of crown land that are under consideration for inclusion into the South Okanagan Wildlife Management Area (SOWMA).
There are a number of reasons why land might be designated WMA. It allows for better protection of at-risk or endangered wildlife and fish, as well as the habitats they survive in. A Ministry of Forests fact sheet that was distributed at the meeting note that ‘a WMA designation gives the ministry additional tools to manage the land and associated land uses including the ability to make orders and regulations’.
In order to be considered for WMA, the property must be either Crown land, or involved in a long term lease with the ministry; in other words, private land owners need not worry that their property might come into question. The meeting held on Tuesday is part of a process, with the eventual outcome decided by cabinet. Once has been included in the WMA, there is the creation of ‘a management plan, developed in consultation with partners, First Nations, agencies, stakeholders and the public’. It is worth noting that there are some key differences between WMA’s and ‘formal protected lands’ which would include parks, ecological reserves and conservancies. There is a lot of flexibility within wildlife management areas to allow for activities such as mining and forestry, if the economic benefits are balanced with the risks to the environment.
The original wildlife management area in the South Okanagan was created in 1994, consisting of 461 hectares. The proposed parcels would add another 4,300 hectares to the WMA.

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