More than 30 rare species found on newly bought NCC land

By on April 2, 2014
The purchase of the Elkink South Block more than doubles the size of the Sage and Sparrow Conservation Area near Kilpoola Lake. (Nature Conservancy of Canada)

The purchase of the Elkink South Block more than doubles the size of the Sage and Sparrow Conservation Area near Kilpoola Lake. (Nature Conservancy of Canada)

More than 30 species at risk have been found on lands purchased last year by the Nature Conservancy of Canada (NCC) on grasslands west of Osoyoos.

Last week the NCC formally announced the purchase of a 1,826-acre property near Kilpoola Lake even though the land was actually purchased last June.

Known as the South Block, the land adjoins and links two previous land purchases in the Sage and Sparrow Conservation Area – the Sparrow Grasslands and the Sagebrush Slopes.

The $4.4 million purchase was funded by the Government of Canada through its Natural Areas Conservation Program, by foundations, biologists, local naturalists’ clubs and hundreds of individuals. The land was purchased from local rancher Ace Elkink.

“We spent the summer out on the properties and have found an amazing array of species at risk there,” said Lesley Neilson, NCC communications manager for the B.C. Region.

“We’ve now documented more than 30 species at risk on these lands, including for the first time ever, the canyon bat, a tiny little bat that weighs about the same as a Hershey’s Kiss. It’s the first time that it’s been recorded in Canada, so that’s an exciting discovery.”

The total area of the land, including purchases made in 2012, is now 3,120 acres. It extends south to the U.S. border.

The public may use the land for walk-in access for activities like hiking and bird watching, Neilson said, however motorized vehicles, fires and overnight camping aren’t permitted.

There are two parking areas, one on Sagebrush Slopes beyond Kilpoola Lake and the other in Sparrow Grasslands.

NCC is currently working on acquiring grasslands in the Nicola Valley and is not actively pursuing additional lands in the Okanagan-Similkameen currently, Neilson said. Nonetheless, since purchases of private land depend on having a willing seller, NCC is keeping an eye on other lands.

“We certainly have a lot of our conservation science planning that shows us where the most important pieces are,” she said. “That’s why we’re working in that area, and that’s why we keep our eyes and ears to the ground about when opportunities come up.”

The South Block has been of interest to the conservation community for more than 30 years. The land sits on the migratory corridor for species moving between the desert areas of the western United States and the dry grassland interior of B.C.

“Right now we’re very excited to get back in there this summer and see what more species at risk that we can find,” she added. “That’s absolutely the key.”


Osoyoos Times



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