Rabbit Advocacy Animal Matters



Richard J. Cannings and Eva Durance. 1998. Human use of natural resources in the South Okanagan and Lower Similkameen valleys in Smith, I.M., and G.G.E. Scudder, eds. Assessment of species diversity in the Montane Cordillera Ecozone. Burlington: Ecological Monitoring and Assessment Network, 1998. http://www.naturewatch.ca/eman/reports/publications/99_montane/humans/intro.html 


Humans are an integral part of any large ecosystem on earth. In the south Okanagan, humans have been present for at least 6000 years and probably longer, generally concentrating their activities in the warmer habitats near the valley floor. Such low elevation lands throughout the world tend to be the most easily accessible and the most biologically diverse, and for these reasons, the most desirable for human uses. For indigenous peoples, the European settlers that followed, and present-day residents, the lower elevation lands were, and are, the most attractive for occupation: the most fertile for agriculture and with the most accessible water, the most easily travelled through (and on in the case of the lakes) and built upon, and with the most food sources in wildlife and fish.

The Okanagan indigenous people's occupation of the land, their cultural relationship to it, and their numbers, were such that they lived in a sustainable relationship with the land and its other occupants (reference?). Since the arrival of Europeans and increasingly with the recent rapid development , however, the overall biological sustainability has been jeopardized. Excessive livestock grazing on the low elevation grasslands in the mid 19th century and early 20th severely damaged wildlife habitat in this ecosystem. Later, conversion of land to agriculture, especially intensive orcharding, ground crops, and vineyards with the concomitant need for water meant the destruction of much of the native vegetation, filling in of wetlands and ponds, and the degradation or destruction of waterways through channelization.

The same sort of destruction has been the result of increased urban development. Wildlife habitat is also threatened or destroyed by factors such as pesticide use in agriculture, forestry, and domestic settings, the introduction of non-native species such as largemouth bass, European starling, house sparrow, Eurasian water-milfoil, purple loosestrife, sulphur cinquefoil, and many others that compete with native species, and with uncontrolled recreational use of all-terrain and other off-road vehicles. The result for the 'natural' Okanagan is severe degradation and wholesale destruction of much of its ecological integrity..

"The preservation of biological diversity in the South Okanagan presents a major challenge. Wildlife officials must not only attempt to preserve wildlife in the face of unrelenting development pressures..., but they must also endeavour to protect species that evoke little human sympathy and have little or no recreational or commercial value. Moreover, much of the habitat that is so critical to species at risk in the region is located on privately owned land¾land over which government has limited control." (Walter and Wilkerson 1997:12)

How humans have occupied and used the South Okanagan and Similkameen, and continue to do so, is critical to an understanding of the problems faced today in attempting to preserve and enhance the natural biodiversity of the area. The legacy of past activities and practices can not only give us an understanding of why the land is as it is today; it may also help us assess how to begin to mitigate the negative effects of our occupation of the land and to avoid perpetrating further mass destruction. This chapter outlines that legacy starting with an examination of the Okanagan people's use of the land and water and their resources and then exploring the main historical uses and economic activities carried out on the land as these have changed over the past 175 years.

 Table of Contents


Protect Canada’s "Pocket Desert"!  

August 7, 2007 Nature Canada http://www.naturecanada.ca/

Help protect Canada’s only desert ecosystem. Ask the Canadian Government to create a National Park in the South Okanagan-Similkameen Valley.


·         There are more species at risk in the South Okanagan-Similkameen Valleys than in any other part of BC, including canyon wrens, white-headed woodpeckers, burrowing owls, badgers, tiger salamanders, spadefoot toads, pallid bats, spotted bats, scorpions, and many other species.

·         The South Okanagan Valley contains the antelope brush ecosystem, also known as Canada’s “pocket desert,” which is one of the most endangered habitats in the country.

·         Bunchgrass and Ponderosa pine ecosystems are greatly threatened and have very limited distributions in BC. They deserve much greater inclusion in our protected areas system.

·         Parks Canada has a goal of establishing at least one national park in each of Canada’s 39 major terrestrial regions, yet there is no national park in BC’s Interior Dry Plateau natural region where the South Okanagan-Similkameen National Park Reserve is proposed.

·         As the human population in the South Okanagan rapidly increases, the native ecosystems are under increasing threat by excessive development pressures such as suburban sprawl and agricultural expansion.

·         National Parks greatly benefit local economies by increasing tourism revenues, enhancing local property values, and providing employment for local people.

·         National Parks greatly enhance the quality of life for local people and all Canadians by protecting exceptional scenic, educational, and recreational opportunities such as hiking, horseback riding, bird-watching, nature exploration, camping and fishing.


Therefore, we the undersigned call upon the government of Canada to commit to the establishment of a sizeable national park reserve in the South Okanagan and Similkameen Valleys that:

1.)  Upholds the standard of protection afforded by the National Parks Act.

2. ) Protects at least 100,000 hectares of land in total, including significant tracts of currently unprotected Crown lands in the grasslands and forests of the region.

3.) Includes a $50 million parks acquisition fund to purchase private lands for protection, to buy out grazing leases on Crown Lands, and to provide conservation financing for local First Nations.

4.) Encompasses the existing provincial parks and protected areas in the region including in the highly ecologically important Vaseux and White Lake Protected Areas.

Help Make the South Okanagan-Similkameen National Park a Reality

The South Okanagan Similkameen is Canada's only desert ecosystem - one of the highest priorities for conservation in Canada. Over 1/3 of BC's threatened and endangered species live here - birds, mammals, and plants found nowhere else in Canada, including the Flammulated owl, Lyall's mariposa lily, and the Great Basin spadefoot. Shrub-grasslands and ponderosa grasslands are found in no other Canadian national park. National parks provide the highest level of protection to public lands. National parks make economic sense. They contribute $1.2-billion to the GDP each year. The natural environments of the South Okanagan-Similkameen are among the most endangered in Canada.

October 19, 2017 The clock is ticking. It’s 2017 and we have yet to see a national park for this region. It is one of Canada’s most unique ecosystems and also one of the most endangered in the world. With a new BC government in power, we can get this park realized. The burrowing owl, sharp-tailed grouse, and white-tailed jackrabbit are now locally extinct. If we wait any longer to protect what little remains of this critical landscape and its species we will end up losing it all forever. The situation is dire. Take action.

October 27, 2017 Today, supporters of the Park heard from the Hon. George Heyman, BC Environment Minister. He informed us that BC and Canada, alongside three Southern Communities of the Syilx/Okanagan Nation, are renewing discussions to establish a national park reserve in the South Okanagan.

Read more: Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society - BC

SEE Wilderness Committee  July 2019 updates: Canada’s most endangered species closer to getting a national park reserve https://www.wildernesscommittee.org/okanagan

2022 A guide for talking to government about endangered species: I’m asking your government to enact standalone provincial legislation to protect species at risk and native ecosystems by 2024. https://www.wildernesscommittee.org/news/case-for-a-law-protecting-species-at-risk

Help the Radium Bighorn herd https://www.facebook.com/helpradiumbighorns

South Okanagan Similkameen Conservation Program (SOSCP)

Sir David Attenborough speaking on climate change (2015) See Population Matters

IUCN https://www.iucnredlist.org/en The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species

Established in 1964, the International Union for Conservation of Nature’s Red List of Threatened Species has evolved to become the world’s most comprehensive information source on the global extinction risk status of animal, fungus and plant species. More than 41,000 species are threatened with extinction. That is still 28% of all assessed species. (2022)