Tim Feeney

British Columbia

Number of projects: 2

Land value: Land value is the appraised value of land that NCC has conserved directly and with partners. $2,077,000

Acres conserved: 421

Stewardship volunteers: 561

Digging deep for burrowing owls

Dianne Bersea

Home sweet home for many species (especially birds) is well above ground, often nestled in lush trees within dense forests. But for burrowing owls, their preference is to settle underground when creating their nests.

Unable to dig their own burrows, burrowing owls use holes left by other animals, such as badgers and ground squirrels. But as more land is developed, there are fewer and fewer abandoned holes for burrowing owls to nest in.

In October 2016, 50 volunteers joined NCC and the Burrowing Owl Conservation Society of BC to dig 22 new burrows on the Napier Lake Ranch Conservation Area, south of Kamloops, British Columbia.

Creating burrows is the first step in reintroducing these owls to these grasslands, and mating pairs of captive-bred birds were released on the site in the spring of 2017.

Burrowing owls became extirpated (locally extinct) in BC in the 1970s. Now, thanks to the combined efforts of reintroduction programs and habitat conservation projects, this charming species is making a comeback in BC’s grasslands.

NCC and the Burrowing Owl Conservation Society have been working together on burrowing owl reintroduction projects since 2012, when NCC created the Sage and Sparrow Conservation Area near Osoyoos in the South Okanagan. Several pairs of owls have been successfully released on this site in the past few years, with more to come.

Wetland conservation along the Okanagan River

Tim Feeney

The bobolink has one of the longest migrations of any North American songbird, travelling 20,000 kilometres to and from South America each year (which can add up to the equivalent of four or five times around the Earth’s circumference in a lifetime). In the summer it breeds in open areas across much of southern Canada and the northern United States.

While walking along the Okanagan River, you may be able to catch a glimpse of a bobolink in this critical breeding location in the Okanagan Valley. Considered a birder’s paradise, the Osoyoos Oxbows area, located along the Okanagan River, fosters habitat that is recognized as an Important Bird Area for many species, and contains some of the last remaining marshes in a once-thriving wetland area.

In March, NCC announced the conservation of a 90-acre (36-hectare) property in the heart of the Osoyoos Oxbows. Once an agricultural property, the Ted Pendergraft and Sons Conservation Area has now joined other conservation lands in the area to create a growing conservation legacy along the Okanagan River.

This project includes the restoration of some of the former agricultural fields to more natural wetlands. Oxbows are wetland channels that have been cut off from the main river; the Osoyoos Oxbows are remnants from the original path of the Okanagan River, which was straightened in the 1950s to control flooding. Rehabilitating historic oxbow channels allows wetland species, such as the western painted turtle, Great Basin spadefoot and blotched tiger salamander (all COSEWIC-designated species at risk), to relocate from nearby areas.

A key partner in NCC's work in the Osoyoos Oxbows is Ducks Unlimited Canada (DUC). In addition to contributing funds to purchase the new conservation lands, DUC is also a co-title holder and will collaborate with restoration work on the site.

Many funders contributed to the success of this project, including the Government of Canada, under the Natural Areas Conservation Program, Habitat Conservation Trust Foundation, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, British Columbia Conservation Foundation, Oliver-Osoyoos Naturalists' Club, South Okanagan Naturalists' Club, Okanagan Similkameen Parks Society, Burrowing Owl Winery and many individuals.

Protecting internationally significant habitat for migratory birds

NCC

For grizzly bears ambling through the Rocky and Purcell mountains, the Columbia Valley serves as one of the most important linkage zones in the Rocky Mountain Trench. Conserving undeveloped land here is considered pivotal in the mammal’s migration between the two mountain ranges.

In February, NCC announced a new wetland conservation project in BC's Columbia Valley, near Radium Hot Springs and adjacent to the internationally significant Columbia River wetlands. This project represents the second phase of NCC's efforts to create the Luxor Linkage Conservation Area, which protects key lands within a natural wildlife corridor between the Columbia Valley and the Rocky Mountains.

The conservation area will ensure safe and undisturbed habitat for not only grizzly bear, but for migratory birds as well. The Columbia River wetlands are an important stopover area for waterfowl and other birds, many of which breed and feed here. A wide range of wildlife rely on wetlands for some or all of their life cycle, including many Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada-designated species at risk, such as common nighthawk, western grebe, westslope cutthroat trout and western toad. 

The upland portion of the conservation area supports grasslands and open forests of interior Douglas-fir. These habitats are associated with over 70 species at risk listed under the BC Conservation Data Centre, including American badger, grizzly bear, Lewis's woodpecker, flammulated owl and a number of rare plants (such as the red-listed Hooker's Townsend daisy).

This project was supported by funding from the Government of Canada, under the Natural Areas Conservation Program. Additional funding was contributed by the Fish and Wildlife Compensation Program, Sitka Foundation, Vital Ground Foundation and other individuals.

A birding group on NCC’s Columbia Lake – Lot 48 Conservation Area had a surprise: the sighting of an American badger. This was the first time this endangered creature has been seen on the conservation area in decades.