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Saving BC’s Wetlands

At the heart of British Columbia’s Okanagan valley, Kelowna is a growing city in a pastoral landscape. The region is home to many beaches, wineries, farms, and recreational activities and is a popular destination for locals and tourists alike. But the growth of the region has put many of its wetlands at risk.

Wetlands are an important habitat for birds and other wildlife. Each year, almost 28 million waterfowl and shorebirds use BC’s wetlands to nest and over-winter. In addition, wetlands are home to species such as salmon and play an important role in maintaining the balance and purity of surface waters.

But in the face of increased human growth, agriculture and industry, wetlands have been in decline. In some places, 85 percent of floodplains and marshes have been lost.

Mallard duckDucks Unlimited Canada, an organization which partners with government, non-government, industry and private sources to conserve BC’s wetlands and other associated habitats, worked with the city of Kelowna to develop a new strategy for wetland conservation.

With the help of Ducks Unlimited, which provided funds and assistance in the development of a Wetland Inventory, Classification and Mapping report, the City Council of Kelowna and Mayor Sharon Shepherd recently unveiled the Kelowna 2030 Official Community Plan (OCP). Under the new OCP, individuals and organizations are required to obtain permits prior to conducting any development within wetlands in Kelowna. The actions of city council were praised by Les Bogdan, Ducks Unlimited’s provincial manager in BC, as showing “tremendous environmental leadership”.

A total of 278 wetlands and waterways were identified by the report and will be protected under the new plan. All concerned parties are encouraged to contact staff from the City of Kelowna before beginning work near watercourses.

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