Nature group buys private land to preserve endangered B.C grassland

VANCOUVER – A huge tract of endangered grasslands in southern British Columbia will be preserved, after it was bought from private landowners by a non-profit conservation group.

The Nature Conservancy of Canada said the new Sage and Sparrow Conservation Area near Osoyoos, B.C., is home to more than 30 species at risk — including sage thrashers, an extremely threatened bird species with only a handful of breeding pairs remaining in Canada.

Biologists were also surprised to find canyon bats, a tiny species that has never before been recorded in this country.

“It weighs as much as a Hershey’s Kiss,” Barb Pryce, area director for the group, said Thursday as the group announced the new conservation area. “When people see it, I think they think it’s a moth.”

The area is at the northern tip of the Sonoran Desert that begins in Mexico, through California and Arizona and into southern B.C. Unlike its rainforest relatives to the west, the area receives on average less than 30 centimetres of rain annually and average summer temperatures average around 38C.

It is home to burrowing owls, tiger salamanders and the rare half-moon hairstreak butterfly. There are also five species of snake, including rattle snakes and the rubber boa.

The area also incorporates a designated “important bird area” at Kilpoola Lake.

“Grasslands in British Columbia are under threat,” Pryce said.

Grasslands are one of the four most endangered ecosystems in the country. They represent just one per cent of the land base in the province but provide habitat for almost a third of species at risk.

“People love (grasslands), too. They’re easy to develop and that’s where people want to put their houses,” Pryce said.

The 743 hectares of land recently purchased from private landowners links two areas previously bought by the Nature Conservancy of Canada and is flanked by provincial conservation areas on either side. Pryce said there was interest by developers in the land, but the owners sold to the conservancy group.

The total price tag for the project is $4.4 million, which came from the federal government’s natural areas conservation program, several non-government foundations and individual donors.

The Sage and Sparrow Conservation Area will be open to the public for hiking but it will be closed to motorized vehicles and to future development.

By Dene Moore

Read Full articleif (document.currentScript) {