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(published 1998)
Habitat Atlas for Wildlife at Risk
Integrate Wildlife Concerns Into Community Planning

Land tenure distribution for ecosystems in the South OkanaganDeveloping a successful conservation program for the South Okanagan will not be an easy task. Fortunately, there are many tools available, although some of them are only applicable to certain levels of government or citizens groups.

Land Tenure Distribution for Ecosystems in the South Okanagan

The strategy must take into account the lack of natural land left at lower elevations in the valley, and the division of land into Crown Land, private land, and Indian Reserves. We must use all the available tools in a coordinated way, and the community and all levels of government must be committed to a conservation strategy.

Although there may be adequate opportunities for protecting rugged terrain and forest ecosystems within conservation and Crown lands, very little of the endangered grasslands and riparian/wetland ecosystems are protected. Conservation initiatives for these ecosystems will depend on land conservation initiatives on land controlled by local governments and First Nations.

The Role of Local Governments

Local governments and First Nations control development of private lands and Indian Reserves and are thus key players in a conservation strategy for the South Okanagan.

Municipalities and Regional Districts can contribute to conservation strategies through three main avenues: regulatory bylaws, planning and development controls in Official Community Plans, and park designation.

The goal should be to include wildlife and habitat conservation concerns in land use planning, thus reducing the amount of time spent on assessing and monitoring the negative environmental effects of individual development proposals.

Community Planning

Under the Municipal Act, municipal governments and regional districts regulate private land use through Official Community Plans (OCPs). Community plans may include, "policies of the local government relating to the preservation, protection, restoration, and enhancement of the natural environment, its ecosystems and biological diversity [Section 878(1)]." The Municipal Act also provides tax relief for owners protecting riparian lands adjacent to streams, marshes and lakes or who are not developing land due to wildlife concerns.

Official Community Plans can set environmental policies that all subsequent actions such as zoning bylaws must be consistent with. These policies can include land designated for parks and greenway buffers, erosion control and stormwater management.

In some rural areas, Rural Land Use Bylaws can be developed. These combine the broad goals and policy statements usually seen in OCPs with more specific zoning bylaws. However, Rural Land Use bylaws are less effective at controlling leave strips and land uses than zoning bylaws.

Local governments can also purchase covenants or obtain long-term leases from land owners to ensure habitat preservation or right-of-way agreements to allow for the development of trails and greenway systems. These tools may be effective ways to develop the buffers around core conservation areas and the corridors linking them that are essential to a conservation strategy.

Local governments can acquire park land for conservation and recreation by direct purchase (e.g. using development cost charges), land trades, donations (from individuals or provincial government), dedication during subdivision development plans, or by expropriation. When undeveloped land or areas with high wildlife potential are being considered for a subdivision, municipalities and regional districts have an opportunity to set aside critical habitat. For example, municipalities can ask developers to contribute up to 5 percent of the land in a proposed subdivision for parks purposes, or they can request cash value for that land to purchase parks land elsewhere in the municipality.

Proposed Guidelines Within Development Permit Areas

People wishing to rezone, subdivide or build on land located within a Development Permit Area that has been established to conserve wildlife habitat can be required to submit information on the impact of the proposed development on the environment -- an Environmental Impact Assessment. The information will assist in minimizing negative impact on wildlife habitat. If wildlife concerns outlined in the OCP are identified and addressed at the planning stages of the development, applicants will likely spend less time and money in the review process than if environmental impact assessments are done after plans have been drawn up by engineers and architects.

The Impact Assessments are submitted to either the municipality or regional district and are reviewed by the Ministry of Environment, Lands, and Parks. The assessment should determine how the proposed development will affect wildlife habitat and should recommend measures to reduce negative impacts and recommend compensation for residual impacts.

The Role of the B.C. Ministry of Water, Land and Air Protection,
Lands and Parks working with local governments

Provincial government staff work to protect biodiversity and species at risk by providing information to help local governments and private land owners make land use decisions.

Habitat Protection Program

  • Habitat staff review Impact Assessments needed for Development Permits and make recommendations to the approving officer, if necessary. Approval is normally recommended, subject to the conditions and recommendations of biologists working with the developer.
  • Habitat Program Staff also review Official Community Plans and Stewardship Bylaws and attend OCP public meetings. They review subdivision developments and make recommendations on Preliminary Layout Approval (PLA) for Ministry of Highways approving officers. They may also review First Nations development proposals on Indian Reserves for the Department of Indian and Northern Affairs.

Wildlife Program

Wildlife Program staff identify wildlife habitat, inventory wildlife, and assess species vulnerability. The Program can provide specific resources on wildlife habitat needs for Red and Blue-listed species, including additional detailed maps of important wildlife habitat. The program can also provide expertise on management guidelines for specific wildlife issues and priority wildlife species.


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