Another piece of the puzzle

Adding Another Piece to the Puzzle in the White Lake Basin

By Judie Steeves

Yellow monkey flowers scattered along the pathway through tall grass tell a tale of the dampness hidden at root level and rustling aspen leaves whisper the invisible location of a creek meandering through this grassland.

Clumps of grey sagebrush are accents on the grassy hillsides that rise on both sides, but they’re also dotted with stately red-trunked ponderosa pines — both releasing distinctive aromas evocative of the hot, dry climate that is typical of the South Okanagan’s desert ecosystem.

This diversity on the 32-hectare Park Rill Creek property is what makes this land critical to so many, often-endangered creatures and their habitat.

These range from the Half-moon Hairstreak butterfly to the Blotched Tiger Salamander, the Brewer’s Sparrow to the Badger.

Park Rill Creek is an infill property within the White Lake Basin Biodiversity Ranch, which is managed by The Nature Trust of B.C. with the Clifton family.

“We are integrating livestock management with endangered species protection and habitat conservation,” said Dr. Jasper Lament, CEO of The Nature Trust of B.C.

Acquisition of this unusual property by The Nature Trust of B.C. would add another piece to the puzzle which, when complete, will show a picture of a very diverse and representative cross-section of Okanagan natural ecosystems.

This property will connect to other protected areas, expanding conservation in the South Okanagan.

The White Lake Biodiversity Ranch is one of the largest intact grasslands in the region. East of it is B.C. Parks’ White Lake Grasslands Protected Area, which links with the Vaseux-Bighorn National Wildlife Area of the Canadian Wildlife Service and more Nature Trust holdings on the west side of Vaseux Lake.

Lament notes that the Park Rill Creek property includes riparian floodplain, wetlands, ponderosa pine, rocky outcrops, sagebrush steppe, broadleaf woodlands and grassland, all of which have been protected to a large extent by the family who has been managing the land until now.

Bryn White is manager of the South Okanagan Similkameen Conservation Program. She notes this is a hot spot for species at risk and includes three of four bio-geoclimatic zones that are of concern in this province — Bunchgrass, Ponderosa pine and Interior Douglas fir — while 30 per cent of B.C.’s listed species at risk are here.

Penticton Indian Band knowledge-keeper Richard Armstrong calls the basin “a breadbasket for us. We still dig roots and pick berries, even though we are not so much dependent on them for our food.”

His people are part of the health of the land, as are caretakers such as The Nature Trust, he adds.

Adjacent to this property, efforts are underway by the Burrowing Owl Conservation Society to re-introduce captive-bred Burrowing Owls by digging the burrows they would normally inhabit to raise their young and then releasing a pair of owls there to nest.

Acquisition of the Park Rill Creek land would conserve important sites for the owls to hunt.

Park Rill Creek is the newest property in the Okanagan which The Nature Trust is working to acquire and it’s necessary to raise $1.15 million by Sept. 30 this year for that dream to come true.

“We need a lot of partners to achieve our goal,” Jasper adds.

The South Okanagan Conservation Fund is overseen by the Regional District of the South Okanagan and provides grants for conservation.

The Nature Trust’s Park Rill Creek received one of the first grants to be awarded from this program in the amount of $200,000. And local naturalists from the South Okanagan stepped up with a donation of $1,150.

If you would like to help conserve this important property or to learn more about The Nature Trust of B.C., go to the website at: www.naturetrust.bc.ca


B.C.'s enviro hypocrisy

By Danielle Smith 

All right, British Columbians. I have had it up to my eyeballs with your wilful blindness to environmental issues in your own province.

So, as of now, I am a charter member of the Facebook Page Save BC’s Environment — the purpose of which is to highlight the many real and pressing environmental issues that your political leaders refuse to take action on.

Let’s start with Thursday’s investigative report from Star Metro, which found that British Columbia is the nation’s worst offender when it comes to allowing untreated sewage into enter Canadian rivers and oceans.

Of the 120 million cubic metres per year in Canada as a whole, British Columbia is responsible for nearly one-third of the problem. That’s right. That’s 45 billion litres of sewage filled with toxins, heavy metals, micro-plastics, pharmaceuticals, bacteria and pathogens being dumped into clean water. That’s about 1,900 tankers worth.

It doesn’t include the deliberate dumping of raw sewage by places such as Victoria. This is because of co-mingled storm sewer and sewer systems getting overwhelmed because of too much rain and runoff.

In Calgary, the equivalent measure is zero. That’s because Calgary made the decision to separate its two systems back in the 1960s.

This is something British Columbia doesn’t intend to complete until 2050. And what are the consequences of failing to treat raw sewage?

  • Mussels get contaminated with pharmaceuticals.
  • Residents get sick from eating contaminated oysters. 
  • Cholera starts turning up in coastal communities.

But untreated sewage may be the least of B.C.’s environmental problems.

B.C. has created an international incident with its embarrassing handling of mine management and cleanup. Alaskans have asked their government to deal with the Tulsequah Chief Mine in northwest B.C., which is leaking acid waste into one of the richest salmon runs in the region — and has been for 60 years.

Or how about the ongoing problems from the Mount Polley mining disaster? That’s where the mine’s tailings dam broke and spewed 24 million cubic metres of mining waste into adjacent lakes and rivers.

And who will clean up the toxic mess left behind in B.C.’s 1,800 abandoned mines?

What about current polluters?The top 10 polluters in B.C. are spewing out nitrogen oxides, sulphur dioxide, volatile organic compounds and particulate matter; all of which can impact human health and aggravate respiratory conditions.

The Prince George Pulp and Paper and Intercontinental Pulp Mills are the biggest polluters of water with sulfur and manganese. Teck Metals Ltd. emits lead, selenium and arsenic.

That’s not all. How many of those regions with 1,000-year-old trees targeted for clear cutting will ever be effectively reclaimed?

British Columbians: should ask all those foreign-paid environmental activists why they are spending all their time focusing on the minuscule risk of a tanker spill when they have all these other issues they could be rallying support to address.

Perhaps it’s because the opposition to Kinder Morgan’s Trans Mountain pipeline expansion isn’t really about protecting the environment at all.

Update: and for those who say that all this is irrelevant because the real issue is climate change and greenhouse gas emissions, well, you have your own problems there too. 

B.C. is the single largest exporter of coal in North America. The volume of exported coal is so huge, it will ultimately produce an estimated 99.8 million tonnes of CO2.

That’s 150 per cent more than B.C.’s entire annual carbon footprint.

Danille Smith is a former Alberta politician and current talk show host in Calgary.

Scrap the Speculation Tax

By Jane Hoffman

I have lived in Kelowna for the past 35 years. I have raised my family in Kelowna, built my business here and hope to retire here. 

I love this community for many reasons and I understand why others are drawn to build their lives here too. 

Having strong roots in this community, I see the impact non-locals have on our economy. I have decades of first-hand memories helping families relocate here and people retire here. 

I have met people from all over the world and have helped people from all over Canada find their home here. I understand (and value) the contribution that non-local people and businesses make to the Kelowna economy to make it what it is today.

Since the NDP announced the Speculation Tax in February, I have fielded hundreds of calls from concerned residents of Kelowna. 

These calls were made in fear and anger. Our part-time residents understand they are targeted and understand the significant impact this tax will have on their livelihood. 

I appreciate that some of the calls were from people who do not live in our city year-round, but I recognize their full-time commitment for the betterment of our economy. I refuse to define our part-time residents as “speculators."

These calls were not from speculators. A speculator does not make a long-term investment in a community. By definition, a speculator takes large risks, especially with respect to anticipating future price movements, in the hope of making quick, large gains. 

The people most impacted by the Speculation Tax in our community are not speculators by definition; they have thought out their investment, purchased it years or decades ago in hopes of making Kelowna their home, or make a home for their extended family.

The people who reside here part-time are people who have worked to earn their homes here, contribute to our infrastructure and schools through their property taxes and invest in our economy through their lifestyle.

They are people who support our local artisans and shop owners by purchasing their goods here and provide work to the seasonal workers that make a living in our community.  

They are not speculators.
Our community is reliant on non-locals and tourists. According to Ross Hickey, Faculty of Economics of UBC Okanagan, 37 per cent of all people who have moved to Kelowna since 2011 are from other parts of Canada; that is over a third of our city’s population growth in the past five years. 

Tourism Kelowna has recorded that there were 1.9 million tourists to Kelowna creating 8,350 jobs in 2016 alone. Our economy cannot afford to deter non-local and tourist investment. My fear is that with this Speculation Tax, that is exactly what will happen.
Let's encourage our government to go back to the drawing board to address the housing supply challenge. I believe a comprehensive housing plan will engage, not divide, the very people we rely on to make our economy tick. 
If you are as concerned as I am about how this tax will impact our economy, please join the coalition to Scrap the Speculation Tax. 
Simply go to scrapthespeculationtax.ca to take action or share the message against it.

Jane Hoffman is a realtor with the Jane Hoffman Group at Coldwell Banker Horizon Realty in Kelowna.  https://www.janehoffman.com/


Life with Norm Letnick

Following last year's “Life as an MP” column, I wanted to feature one of our local MLAs.

It took a lot more work to co-ordinate than we had both hoped, but I finally made it down to Victoria last month.

So here we go: Life as an MLA, featuring Norm Letnick

Here’s hoping by reading this column, watching the video, and checking some of the links, you get a better idea how the provincial government works. 

What is question period? 

As you will see in the video, it's the most public part of the provincial government and often where the new headlines are generated.

Each question and story told is carefully considered by the opposition as they “hold the government's feet to the fire,” as Norm says. 

Who actually holds the power in government? 

This was something new for me. As Norm shows us the legislature, he specifically talks about government being the Premier and cabinet.

I’ve been mulling over the significance of that statement and it's actually quite profound. 

Why are the parties in the legislature separated by two sword lengths? 

Better safe than sorry as they say. 

Thanks, Norm, for being a gracious host. Appreciate your efforts in Victoria. 

If anyone wants to dig deeper, here are a number of links I wanted to include for you. 

Agenda (links, minutes, video, etc): https://www.leg.bc.ca/…/41s…/3rd-session 

Committees: https://www.leg.bc.ca/parlia…/committees

Norm Letnick: https://www.leg.bc.ca/…/41…/Letnick-Norm

Bills in progress: https://www.leg.bc.ca/…/bills-with-hans… 

BC Liberal Caucus: http://bcliberalcaucus.bc.ca/ (this is shown the first part of the video in this column). 

Legislative Assembly of British Columbia: https://www.leg.bc.ca/

Lesson plan for teachers: https://www.leg.bc.ca/…/le…/lesson-plans

In the coming weeks, I’ll share at least one and maybe two more videos from my trip to Victoria with Norm.

More Writer's Bloc articles

About the Author

Welcome to Writer’s Bloc, an opinion column for guest writers to share their experiences and viewpoints with our readers.

Do you have something to say that is timely? of local interest? controversial? inspiring? foodie? entertaining? educational?

Drop a line. [email protected]

Opinions expressed in this column are those of the writer and do not necessarily represent those of Castanet. They are not news stories reported by our staff.

The views expressed are strictly those of the author and not necessarily those of Castanet. Castanet does not warrant the contents.

Previous Stories