November 07, 2014 - 7:20 PM
OKANAGAN – A handful of local and federal leaders as well as a representative from the Okanagan Nation Alliance announced Friday the start of a two year program to restore and rehabilitate wetlands across the Okanagan.
The recently concluded first phase of the project involved public outreach, information gathering, mapping and prioritization. Phase two will see six projects receive hands on improvements including fencing, pathways, educational signage and rehabilitation.
Nelson Jatel is the water stewardship director for the Okanagan Basin Water Board. He says although wetlands make up only 0.2 per cent of the regional landscape, they are vital to the health of the valley.
“The rationale for this project is based on the understanding that the wetlands are among the most sensitive ecosystems in the Okanagan,” he says. “Wetlands provide a disproportionately large biological, hydrological and socio-economic value.”
Jatel says 84 per cent of low elevation wetlands within the valley have been lost to development, resulting in a greater risk of flooding and other environmental impacts.
Phase one of the project involved public outreach, data collection, prioritization and mapping of Okanagan wetlands. All of the hands-on work will take place over the next two years, thanks to $100,000 from Environment Canada.
MP Ron Cannan says the importance of wetlands cannot be overstated.
“There are over 200 bird species and over 50 species of mammals that depend on Canadian wetlands for food and habitat,” he said. “Many of those are right here in the Okanagan.”
West Kelowna mayor and OBWB chair Doug Findlater said wetlands, once considered a nuisance and a waste of valuable land, cannot be brought back once they are gone.
“I think it’s great that our values are changing to protect and preserve our wetlands,” he says.
Phase three of the project will involve the development of a comprehensive Okanagan Wetland Strategy document for future work.
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News from © InfoTel News Ltd, 2014