An event at the Meadowlark Festival took over 20 people up to a breathtaking area within the proposed national park area: the Kilpoola Site within the South Okanagan Grasslands Provincial Protected Area. This region is within the proposed national park boundary.
Doreen Olson, spokesperson for the South Okanagan-Similkameen National Park Network, lead the tour. Jay Kehne, from Washington’s Conservation Northwest, and Bob Handfield, a local geologist, shared their knowledge of the region. Olson and Handfield explained the area’s significance as an International Bird Area Program (IBA) and shared their local knowledge on the Okanagan’s geography and ecology.
Kehne explained the importance of this region for habitat connectivity in the Pacific Northwest and a new initiative “Working for Wildlife”, aiming to sustain the traditional agricultural uses, such as ranching, with conservation. Kehne discussed the value of habitat connectivity, and why corridors are essential for biodiversity, not only connecting the north-south regions accross the boarder, but also east-west through the Okanagan-Similkameen. The national park reserve would connect the currently fragmented protected areas, such as the Kilpoola Site. This, as explained by Kehne, is very important for biodiversity conservation.
More information involving the significance of the Okanagan-Kettle region as a habitat corridor with climate changing is to be released this fall as part of an ongoing study by the Washington Wildlife Habitat Connectivity Working Group.