Ministry of Environment

Sensitive Ecosystems InventoriesSensitive Ecosystems Inventories

Central Okanagan Management Recommendations

These management recommendations apply to all sensitive ecosystems in the Central Okanagan. For specific recommendations relating to each ecosystem type, see the Technical Report.

Delineate Buffers and Corridors Around Sensitive Ecosystems

In order to achieve adequate protection, sensitive ecosystems must be buffered from potentially adverse effects of land use practices in adjacent areas. For this reason, it is recommended that the protected area for a sensitive ecosystem consist of the sensitive core surrounded by a vegetated buffer zone. These zones can absorb and avoid negative edge effects that result from such things as increased human access (on foot or by vehicle), increased animal access, and colonization by invasive species. Buffers also play a role in maintaining microclimate conditions, particularly for wetlands and riparian areas. The size of the buffer zone varies by ecosystem type, and by constraints of the surrounding landscape. This is particularly critical within urban and rural environments. Fencing may be necessary along some buffers where further adjacent development and activity is anticipated. In planning for protection of a particular site, assessments and recommendations should be made by a qualified professional to ensure that conservation options are maximized. In addition to buffering core high priority areas, corridors are needed to connect conservation areas. Many streams and their associated riparian areas provide natural corridors in the study area.

Avoid Direct and Indirect Impacts

Minimizing negative impacts to sensitive ecosystems can be achieved through the following principles.

Discourage development within or adjacent to sensitive ecosystems, unless negative impacts are shown to be insignificant. This is particularly critical within urban and rural environments.

Manage both land and water access. Seasonal use-restrictions, fencing, designated trails, signage and carefully managed livestock access represent a variety of management tools that can be used to control or avoid the negative effects of access to sensitive areas.

Maintain water quality. Clean and sufficient water supplies are critical to the survival of species, ecological processes, and the maintenance of agricultural systems in the study area.

Prevent disturbance of nesting or breeding areas. Known and potential breeding sites, especially for vulnerable, threatened or endangered species should be protected from disturbance or any activity which would disturb breeding adults.

Control invasive species. In many cases, a broad species management program may be required to deal with perennial weeds such as diffuse knapweed (Centaurea diffusa) and annual grasses such as cheatgrass (Bromus tectorum). Using native species to reclaim disturbed sites can reduce the potential for weed invasion. Vehicle use should be avoided in all areas with invasive species.

Restore natural disturbances regimes. While it is neither desirable nor feasible to end fire suppression, it is possible to consider some planned thinning and prescribed burning to restore some areas, reduce ingrowth of Douglas-fir and ponderosa pine, and restore some grassland habitat in high-priority conservation areas. Many sensitive ecosystems and structures that are important to wildlife (e.g., large old trees) are seriously at risk of loss to catastrophic wildlife. Landscape level fuel breaks implemented in appropriate areas determined through a wildfire risk assessment can help protect these structures. Returning riparian and wetland areas to natural water flows might be recommended for specific sites.

Plan Land Development Carefully

Where it is not possible to limit settlement or other developments within or immediately adjacent to a sensitive ecosystem, activities should be carefully planned to minimize adverse effects to the ecosystem. A qualified professional biologist should conduct a detailed inventory of the area in question, ideally over an entire year, to determine the full species complement and ecological functions of the area. Surveys done at the wrong time may fail to uncover the presence of rare species or some critical habitat component for other species.

Inventories of vegetation, including wildlife trees and the extent of tree root systems, terrain features such as cliffs and talus; adjacent water bodies; and other important microhabitats are necessary to determine the full impact of development on biodiversity at the site. In addition, the occurrence of nationally vulnerable, threatened, or endangered species, and rare natural plant communities identified by the Conservation Data Centre should be given high priority for conservation management. Each sensitive ecosystem chapter has a list of the rare vertebrates and natural plant communities that could occur in that ecosystem in the central Okanagan. If the assessment is not conducted at the optimal time to detect species at risk, then it should be assumed these species are present in suitable habitats, unless some evidence demonstrates otherwise. Qualified professionals should work with the planning team to ensure that the sensitive ecosystem and potential wildlife habitat is protected as much as possible.

For more information on management techniques for specific ecosystem types, see the Technical Report.

Habitat Conservation Trust Fund, Regional District of Central Okanagan, British Columbia, Environment Canada