Strategy aims to end wetland devastation

Although wetland losses have slowed and some restoration work has been completed, they are still being lost.

  • Dec. 13, 2013 7:00 a.m.

JUDIE STEEVES

Black Press

The Okanagan wetlands strategy currently underway is a great start to turning around the trend  of wetland devastation in the valley, according to bird biologist and nature writer Dick Cannings.

Cannings is interested in the strategy, a valley-wide, collaborative effort of the Okanagan Basin Water Board, B.C. Wildlife Federation and the Central Okanagan Regional District.

Although wetland losses have slowed and some restoration work has been completed, they are still being lost.

Cannings lists some of the top 30 species which are now in danger due to the loss of habitat in the Okanagan, at times imitating a bird’s trilling song or call as part of his description.

Included were four on the endangered list, five that were threatened, five of special concern, 18 on the provincial blue list and 11 of the red list, he said.

They include four amphibians, one turtle, 12 bird species, 10 dragonflies and three molluscs.

Habitat degradation and loss is the reason for most of the issues those species have had to deal with, but some face competition from non-native or transplanted species, he noted.

Neil Fletcher, wetlands education co-ordinator for the BCWF, says the work that’s underway could become a guiding document for the Okanagan leading to changes in laws and policies that can help to protect the remaining wetlands.

“Hardly anyone is entrusted to protect wetlands,” he commented, adding, “Most of our laws protect private interests, so it’s death by a thousand cuts for wetlands.”

In addition, government cutbacks have meant there are fewer government stewards, so today we must all take responsibility, he commented.

“First Nations are long-standing stewards of wetlands,” he added.

There is much that can be done to improve the situation, he said, including controlling invasive species; mapping wetlands; monitoring wildlife populations; education and advocacy; holding cleanup days and coordinating volunteers.