The Okanagan is one of five habitats the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) identified as in need of environmental protection.
This comes from a 2019 report where the WWF describes the Okanagan as inadequately protected despite being a hotspot for at-risk species (including the pallid bat and desert nightsnake), a potential climate refuge and having high levels of forest biomass.
The report, entitled Wildlife Protection Assessment: A National Habitat Crisis, places the blame partly on ever-growing human influence in the area.
“Expanding human population, and related road and housing infrastructure, and agriculture development have added pressure to the region where many stressed species have already been extirpated,” reads the report.
According to the report, the mix of grasslands, forest, desert-like areas and rich riparian ecosystems provides highly diverse habitats that host many of the province’s at-risk species. Despite this, the WWF states the Okanagan scored poorly in its assessment of ecological representation, which measures the need to represent the full range of physical habitats within a protected areas network to effectively safeguard wildlife.
The other four in-need regions named by the WWF are the territories, the grasslands (prairies), Southern Ontario and Quebec, and the Saint John Watershed.
“This research gives us a whole new way of thinking about protected areas and other conservation measures to address the twin problems of wildlife loss and climate change at the same time,” said Megan Leslie, president and CEO of World Wildlife Fund Canada. “Canada is actively working toward the international target of 17 per cent protection for terrestrial space and inland waters. Now with this new research, governments at all levels will also be able to prioritize those areas that do double-duty for wildlife and climate.”