For example, fragmentation of habitat is a big concern with rapid growth in the valley, so attempts are being made to identify key wildlife corridors — particularly north and south in the valley, and between high and low-elevation features. A particular area of concern is the City of Kelowna in the Central Okanagan, which now occupies almost all the low-elevation land on that eastern side of the valley. “Where is it possible to consider agricultural practices that would not be detrimental to species moving through?” Parrott wonders. She points to best management practices to promote such activities as encouraging protection of habitat for burrowing owls on rangeland; or leaving borders of farmland natural for the use of insects, birds, etc., which also provide pollination services for farmers and insect control.

“I view agricultural land as critical to the Okanagan, but we need to recognize its benefit as habitat for wild species; for its air and natural

environment protection; and for its esthetics.

“And, growers should realize they benefit from natural ecosystems. We all fit into a larger landscape. Neither water nor bees respect property lines,” she points out. Parrott suggests there are a number of steps farmers could take to help protect habitat:

• Intentionally leave unused field margins in their natural state as much as possible for the use of birds, bees, butterflies, etc. • Where fencing is no longer needed, remove it.

• Use sustainable farming practices, such as minimizing the use of chemicals.

• Keep such natural habitat as native trees in place where possible; and identify what is feasible to improve conditions on and around the farm for native creatures. Unfortunately, the big issues are not related to farming, but revolve around land-use concern, such as loss of habitat and fragmentation. Part of the reason the Okanagan has been selected as a pilot area is there

are 30 per cent of the species at risk here, as well as 45 per cent of species of concern, she explains. However, farmland will be even more critical the more the valley builds up.

We still have opportunities to do things differently. We could be more proactive to such opportunities as maintenance of buffer zones, and we need to designate wildlife corridors. In collaboration with local planners, a habitat connectivity project will be launched, and Parrott hopes to see some different planning proposals that are more respectful of species at risk, whether amphibians, owls or other birds.

Parrott said her group of researchers will be working with industry groups in the next phase of the study.

“We’d like to hear what farmers are doing already to maintain habitat for wildlife; and what they are interested in doing—or not.” To discuss the project, contact her at:

British Columbia FRUIT GROWER • Summer 2017


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