Conservation fund generates investment of $7.4 million over four years | Life
A South Okanagan initiative created by the Regional District of Okanagan Similkameen (RDOS) has resulted in a $7.4 million investment in the environment over five years.
The South Okanagan Conservation Fund (SOCF) has now made 38 grants worth just over $1.5 million since 2017 and has leveraged matching funds from other sources worth $5.9 million. millions of dollars.
“What’s exciting about this fund, besides the incredible work on the ground, is the power it has to leverage other funds elsewhere,” said SOCF Trustee Bryn White. “I think it will continue to increase every year.”
SOCF is funded by an annual land value levy in participating areas of the South Okanagan. Applications must be submitted by eligible nonprofit organizations and must address at least one biodiversity threat. A Technical Advisory Committee with expertise in broad environmental disciplines reviews and makes recommendations to RDOS for approval.
“The application process is quite accessible,” White said. “Smaller, more local groups that have an idea of good environmental projects but may not have the background, can partner with a more experienced organization.”
A stratum at Twin Lakes recently did just that and received over $7,000 from SOCF’s 2022 funding round to improve the foreshore ecosystem at the edge of their property. This year, SOCF also awarded $21,349 to the Okanagan Nation Alliance for its Ellis Creek Project to restore riparian habitats. In total, the RDOS has greenlighted $161,085 for eight environmental projects in 2022.
“This work is directly related to maintaining these natural ecological functions in our territory that help prevent flooding and filter our water and air,” White said. “The sustainability of our natural ecosystems influences our quality of life here.
SOCF money is also used to acquire environmentally sensitive land. Since 2017, SOCF grants have been used by South Okanagan land trusts to secure 160 hectares — or 800 hockey rinks — of important habitat. The Okanagan Similkameen is one of the four most threatened ecosystems in Canada.
The idea for SOCF was proposed to the South Okanagan Regional District Council by the South Okanagan Similkameen Conservation Program (SOSCP). The RDOS passed a by-law to create the SOCF in December 2016. At that time, there were only two such funds in British Columbia.
“Our Regional District has been really visionary in implementing this,” White said. “The conservation fund is a truly hopeful tool…it can empower citizens to support sustainability here.”
Today, SOCF is one of four conservation funds in British Columbia. Two are in the Kootenays and one in the North Okanagan.
“I would love to see more applicants, more projects,” White said. “We have only scratched the surface, there is so much more to do and it will be done over the next 10 years.”
SOCF helps fund many of the organizations that run Meadowlark Festival tours (https://meadowlarkfestival.ca/festival-at-a-glance/). Join them and learn more about our South Okanagan natural heritage.
To apply to the fund, visit https://soconservationfund.ca/apply-for-conservation-funding/
This column was funded by the Osoyoos Desert Society.