The Nature Trust of BC is looking to expand the protected area around the Keremeos Columns Provincial Park. (Nature Trust of B.C.)

The Nature Trust of BC is looking to expand the protected area around the Keremeos Columns Provincial Park. (Nature Trust of B.C.)

Keremeos Columns protected area to grow ten-fold

The Nature Trust is adding 194 hectares of protection to the 20 hectare provincial park

The protected area around the Keremeos Columns provincial park is growing tenfold thanks to the recent purchase of nearby land by the Nature Trust of BC.

On June 7, the Nature Trust announced the results of its efforts to raise $50,000 in funds in April for the purchase of 194 hectares of land neighbouring the 20 hectare provincial park.

The purchase now connects and protects seven diverse and sensitive ecosystems in the area, including grasslands, sagebrush steppe, riparian, open coniferous woodland, mature forest, old forest and sparsely vegetated rocky outcrops.

“We were blown away by the community support we received to purchase this property. Preserving connectivity among biologically diverse parts of the Similkameen Valley landscape is an important step in enabling ecosystems to adapt and persevere through climate change,” said Jasper Lament, CEO of the Nature Trust of BCT.

These lands provide habitat for a variety of endangered species. The low-elevation grassland ecosystem is one of the rarest in BC and supports high concentrations of species at risk; protecting this type of ecosystem is a conservation priority.

The mixture of diverse and sensitive ecosystems on the property requires urgent protection as they provide habitat for a variety of at-risk species. The Western Yellow-bellied Racer (listed as Special Concern under Canada’s Species at Risk Act (SARA)) and the Western Rattlesnake (threatened under SARA), who are sensitive to habitat fragmentation and rely on contiguous low elevation grassland, shrub-steppe, and rocky outcrop ecosystems found in the Similkameen Valley, are known to reside within the conservation area.

Additionally, this conservation area will support the habitat needs of the Lark Sparrow, which was once common in B.C., but is now primarily found in undisturbed shrub-steppe grasslands of the South Okanagan and Similkameen.

“Recovering Canada’s species at risk and restoring biodiversity requires local, regional and national action. Conservation efforts at the Keremeos Columns Grassland is a terrific example of how we can work together with partners to protect nature, build ecological corridors and help species at risk,” said Minster of Environment and Climate Change Steven Guilbeault. “The Government of Canada is committed to conserving 25 percent of Canada’s land and inland waters and 25 percent of oceans by 2025, and is working toward 30 percent of each by 2030. Together, we are conserving nature for a healthier future.”

READ MORE: Nature Trust aiming to expand in Keremeos and White Lake

The Keremeos Columns grassland conservation area has a rich history. Surrounded by Douglas fir trees within this conservation area, vertical hexagonal basalt columns rise above the forest. The Columns are a unique geological formation that was created over 30 million years ago during high volcanic activity.

The Keremeos Columns formation is best observed from viewpoints within the Keremeos Columns Provincial Park.

Access to the conservation area requires movement across several private land holdings.

The Nature Trust asks that if people want to view the Columns they do so from the Provincial Park to respect the private property of local land owners, as well as the sensitive species and ecosystems found within the conservation area.

The purchase of the newly protected area was undertaken with the financial support of the Government of Canada through Environment and Climate Change Canada. This project has also been made possible by MapleCross, Val and Dick Bradshaw, the Kaatza Foundation, and many individual donors.

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