Endangered plant keeping residents from South Okanagan beach is protected for a reason: Botanist | Penticton News | iNFOnews

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Endangered plant keeping residents from South Okanagan beach is protected for a reason: Botanist

A B.C. botanist has differing opinions to Okanagan Falls regional district Director Ron Obirek's about Christie Memorial Park beach's short-ray aster populations, shown here in bloom.
Image Credit: SUBMITTED/ Terry McIntosh, photo by Ole Westby
August 16, 2020 - 8:36 AM

A British Columbia botanist who is very familiar with the short-rayed alkali aster says Regional District of Okanagan Similkameen Okanagan Falls Director Ron Obirek doesn't have all the correct facts regarding the endangered plant growing at Christie Memorial Park, earlier this week.

The director is leading the charge in the community to have the aster eliminated from the park because its endangered status has resulted in the loss of use of several hundred feet of valuable beach frontage.

Terry McIntosh Ph.D., is a botanist with 40 years' experience in botanical research, consulting and public education. He's also been involved in preparing status reports for the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada. He has extensive experience researching at-risk species and has recently been focusing his attention on at-risk plant and habitat surveys.

McIntosh says the aster’s endangered listing isn’t a whim of bureaucracy. He says in order to get a species of plant listed as endangered in Canada, a status report must be prepared before being reviewed by members of the endangered wildlife committee. If their assessment is accepted, the species is listed on the species at risk act.

“This takes years and lots of work and input from lots of people,” McIntosh said in an email yesterday, Aug. 13.

The beach isn’t overgrown with asters, as director Obirek suggests, rather, they are "scattered here and there,” he says. Nonetheless, the Christie Memorial Park beach is still the only population of asters in Canada that is healthy and large, McIntosh says.

The cordoned off area of the beach is being infiltrated with native species, not invasive plants like Director Obirek suggested, he said.

Finding more sites in the area wouldn't free up Christie Park's collection of asters. McIntosh says any more sites found in the area would be counted as a single population, as far as the endangered wildlife committee goes.

McIntosh canoed and walked the shores of Osoyoos, Vaseux and Skaha Lake over the past few years in the course of his studies, which were funded by the province. He says only one small patch of the aster was found along Osoyoos Lake.

The biologist says he hopes someone will be able to capitalize on the $500 reward offered by the Save the Aster Save the Beach Society, but wishes them luck.

The society of Okanagan Falls-based residents are offering a 'bounty' of $500 to anyone who can identify new locations for the aster.

“There is at least one common species out there that looks a lot like it, the rayless alkali aster, so I hope they also fund a botanist to confirm the identification,” he says.

One thing McIntosh does agree with Director Obirek on is the aster is not endangered in North America.

“(The endangered wildlife committee) is only concerned about Canada. The B.C. aster populations are the most northern in all its range which gives it special status genetically,” he says.

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