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South Okanagan to benefit from $9 million conservation funding

South Okanagan to benefit from $9 million conservation funding

Sophie Carrigan Gray

Local Journalism Initiative

The Habitat Conservation Trust Foundation announced new funding to go towards conservation efforts across the province, including the South Okanagan and Similkameen.

The $9.2 million will go towards over 180 conservation projects, focused on the individual wildlife species, freshwater fish and habitat conservation.

“This is no small feat,” said Dan Buffett, CEO of the Habitat Conservation Trust Foundation (HCTF), in an emailed press release. “It reflects a diversity of funding from our core contributors (hunters, anglers, trappers and guides), court awards, provincial government contributions and endowments, and our partners such as the Forest Enhancement Society of BC.”

One of the projects benefiting from the funding is the southern interior mule deer project, studying the response of the mule deer population to wildlife and habitat change. The HCTF hopes to find out the reason behind the declining population and give recommendations on how to restore mule deer in the area, according to the press release.

Tracking collars, trail cameras and pregnancy checks are used to study the deer in the South Okanagan, which helps researchers understand how fire suppression, resource extraction and development are affecting the mule deer.

“What we have heard from Indigenous communities, ecologists, and resident hunters is that the decline of mule deer matters to them and the status quo is no longer enough,” said Dr. Adam T. Ford, assistant professor at the University of British Columbia. “It is time we bring more science to bear on issues affecting wildlife in B.C.”

The HCTF and Forest Enhancement Society of BC also provide further funding to conservation projects in the area, including $28,500 to support the Okanagan Similkameen Conservation Program to help protect fish and wildlife habitat in the lakes and rivers.

A number of other funded conservation projects are underway or will begin soon thanks to the new funding. Each project is reviewed in an objective process before funding is approved. A map of all current and past conservation projects can be found on the HCTF website.

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