From humble beginnings 10 years ago, a decision to do things their own way has turned a Kelowna business into a provincial success.
“It's amazing how fast time went by,” says Jason Schleppe, who co-founded Ecoscape with partner Kyle Hawes in April 2006.
“I am somewhat flabbergasted at where we are now when we never really had grand visions.”
The duo founded Ecoscape to create an opportunity to work for themselves with their passion for the environment.
“We didn't really have great ambitions, but you know in 10 years, we grew slowly and accrued a reasonable client base. We went from doing small local work, which we still do a lot of, to doing work for Tech Metals and BC Hydro and Columbia Power and the Ministry of Transportation and Fisheries and Oceans Canada.”
With a focus on natural resource management, Kelowna-based Ecoscape has work throughout B.C. and Alberta, serving both public and private clients.
The company's focus is on environmental protection.
“Urban growth here is a big thing. We are one of the fastest growing areas in B.C., and people come here because they love the Okanagan. We try and make sure that what we are doing to facilitate urban growth doesn’t compromise the environmental values that brought people here in the first place,” says Schleppe.
“Those key resources that we all rely on that make the Okanagan special and great. If we don't protect that through environmental planning, we will look back in 50 years and realize we made mistakes.”
The company works with government and private companies providing statistical models and information to guide sound environmental planning.
“One big avenue of work we do deals with food for fish and the effects of flow regulation on food for fish,” explains Schleppe, who adds that some of the food for fish contracts with power companies can be multi-year large endeavours.
“Another big avenue is environmental land-use planning, particularly environmental inventory. Myself personally, I have inventoried the majority of the large lakes in Southern B.C.”
The firm also recently completed an inventory of Mission Creek, discovering the area around the creek is home to 82 species of birds alone.
Schleppe notes that part of Hawes' work with Ecoscape has been to map all the wetlands in Kelowna.
“So, basically, we are collecting biophysical data that summarizes habitats present and the effects of urban or rural land development on those habitats. To basically plan environmental planning,” says Schleppe.
Ecoscape is currently mapping the North Thompson river system for the government and has plans to map the Shuswap river system next.
“We can actually put where salmon spawn on a map and try to figure out where those habitats are so that local, provincial and federal agencies can guide development, or growth in an appropriate way,” says Schleppe.
“If we don't know where the sensitive sites are, how can we effectively, environmentally plan? The Okanagan has the highest proportion of rare and endangered species in all of Canada, so how can we protect these features that make the Okanagan important.”