Our Mission

Okanagan Similkameen Stewardship is a local non-profit, charitable organization that assists land owners, managers and community groups in voluntary conservation, stewardship and restoration of important habitats on private lands and within communities of the Okanagan and Similkameen valleys. 

Seeking field assistant

Are you looking for some experience working in wetlands in the Okanagan? We are hiring a field assistant for a short contact in March with a possible extension mid-May to mid-June contingent on funding.
If you are a motivated self starter and want to make a difference to wetlands in the Okanagan then head on over and have a look at the job posting here

Seeking Summer Interns

Are you looking for a summer job where you'll get real-world work experience beyond flipping burgers?


We are hiring hard-working summer interns for the 2017 field season to conquer invasive plants and engage our communtiy in hands-on stewardship intiatives- AND it's all in the beautiful Okanagan and Similkameen outdoors.

View the job posting here and apply by April 3, 2017 at 9am.


Creature Feature: Spadefoots

Click the play button in the audio player below.  Does that noise sound familiar?


(If you can't see an audio player,  click here to open it in a new tab. Audio is from californiaherps.com)

No, that's not your spouse snoring last night. That's a male spadefoot trying to impress the ladies!

Spadefoots are a light grey-green colour with darker blotches
along the back. Their round, squat bodies are 2-3 inches long
and their eyes have a distinctive 'cats-eye'' vertical pupil, 
The Great Basin Spadefoot can be found through most of the Okanagan-Similkameen region, though because they are nocturnal and hide underground, they are not often seen. It was once thought that Spadefoots were a kind of toad, but scientists recently discovered they are unique enough to make up their own group. Part of what makes them unique is a small, fingernail-like growth protruding from each back foot, which lets the spadefoot scrape dirt out from underneath itself to burrow backwards into the ground. Spadefoots quite literally have spades on their feet!

The odd snoring call that you heard at the beginning of this article is the mating call of the male spadefoot. The males gather along the sides of small ponds to call for females and on a clear night, these calls can be heard over 200 metres (650 feet) away.  Spadefoots breed in early spring when the snow melt and spring rains have created temporary pools in which mating and egg-laying can occur. These pools quickly dry up once the weather beings to warm, so spadefoot tadpoles have one of the fastest development times of all frogs and toads; after an egg is laid, it takes only 60 days to grow into an adult.

In addition to their digging abilities and speedy development, spadefoots are also unique in their extreme hibernation. Winter and most of the fall is spent spent in true hibernation underground and the heat of the summer is spent in aestivation, a type of hibernation used by some animals to escape extreme heat. Up to 8 months of the year is spend in these dormant states and a spadefoots can live for up to ten years.

Due to habitat destruction and loss of breeding habitat, the Great Basin Spadefoot has been listed as a Threatened species in British Columbia.

FrogLogs® allow trapped animals
 to escape swimming pools.
If you have a swimming pool and have discovered spadefoots, salamanders, or any other kind of animal in your pool filter (dead or alive), please contact us and we may be able to provide you with a FrogLog ® (see left photo).

 If you have spadefoots on your property and may be interested in becoming a Wildlife Habitat Steward, click here for more information.

Attract Native Pollinators

While it is cold and snowy outside and it may not seem like there is an end in sight, spring is just around the corner- why not think forward to spring and start making plans to have beautiful flowering plants throughout the remaining three seasons.

Insect pollinators, including bees, butterflies, beetles and flies, are responsible for one in every three bites we take. In addition to pollinating food plants, many native pollinators also control unwanted pests and improve soil quality. As an added bonus, attracting native pollinators to your property is beautiful, and pretty easy work! 

1. Diversity! Plant diverse colours and shapes of plants and plants that flower throughout the growing season. 

2. Plant flowers in clumps. This will reduce the distance that pollinators need to travel in order to gather pollen and nectar. 

3. Enhance habitat. Not only do pollinators require flowers for pollen and nectar, pollinators benefit from additions to the landscape such as shallow water baths for drinking. 


The endangered Behr's Hairstreak is found only where Antelope Brush habitat is- south of Penticton.  These little butterflies use antelope brush as their larval host plant and one of their favourite nectar plants is yarrow.

Arrowleaf balsamroot is a sure sign of spring on hillsides of the Okanagan and Similkameen valleys.

Monarch butterflies need milkweed to survive.  Plant the native Showy Milkweed for these iconic butterflies.

The Mormon Metalmark is found only in Cawston, Keremeos and through the Richter Pass.  This friendly butterfly needs snow flowering buckwheat to survive.

Whenever possible, don't use pesticides! Most pesticides are non-selective and harm beneficial insects you are trying to attract.

 For more information on how to attract native pollinators to your property, including a plant list and where you can purchase them in the Okanagan, see our Living in Nature Series Guide.

We ❤ Wetlands

Its the 20th Annual World Wetland Day!

As we have said before, wetlands are one of the most critically endangered ecosystems in the Okanagan-Similkameen region; over 85% have been destroyed.  Here at OSSS, we work a lot with wetlands up and down the valley. In fact, almost half of our stewards have some kind of wetland on their property.

So what exactly do we do with the wetlands we help steward?

Last spring, we got an  amazing volunteer turnout when we partnered with TD Bank and the City of Penticton for TD Tree Days. Over 550 plants were planted at Riverside Marsh in Penticton in less than 3 hours!
Almost four and a half TONNES of garbage were pulled out of an Osoyoos wetland in 2015.  That's the weight of a fully-grown elephant! Native plants were planted along the sides of the pond to help stop bank erosion. 

Last spring, we began creating a new wetland in Lumby. It may not look like much now, but in addition to the pond, this 2-acre reclaimed hayfield already has almost a thousand new native plants in the ground!


Over in Summerland, the Okanagan Crush Pad Winery will have 2 new wetland ponds created this year in one corner of their property. In the meantime, we have already improved the surrounding area by planting 1200 native plants

.

"Frog Logs" were given to 12 stewards that have swimming pools near wetlands with amphibian populations. If an amphibian crawls into a pool, it cannot climb the slippery sides and often drowns. These ramps allow the unfortunate frog, salamander, or spadefoot to escape before they get sucked into the filter.


So, what can you do to help local wetlands??


Volunteer with us
We couldn't even begin to do what we do without the tireless work of all of our volunteers. From pulling weeds to picking garbage to planting native plants, out volunteers do it all! Click here to sign up as a volunteer.

Stop the spread of invasive species
Many invasive species, like the American Bullfrog, the Red Eared Slider, and Yellow Flag-iris have devastating impacts on wetlands, whether it be eating everything in sight (bullfrog) or completely choking out open water (flag-iris). Don't plant non-native plants in your pond or near any body of water and never release a non-native animal into the wild.

Become a Steward
Not all wetlands are full of cattails: a spongy wet meadow and a small depression that has water only in the spring are both different kinds of wetland. Do you think you might have a wetland on your property and want to protect it? Contact us here.

Talk about it
Lots of people just don't realise how valuable and important wetlands are to the world.  Wetlands provide us with flood control, groundwater recharge, and water filtration, all for free!



Winter Newsletter

Our winter newsletter should now be in your inboxes.



If you didn't receive it and want to sign up to receive this semi-annual newsletter, you can do so here.

Creature Feature: Western Screech-Owl

Hoot-hoot! Hoothoothoothoot! Sounds like a Western Screech Owl! These shy owls are small, with mottled grey-brown plumage. They have obvious ear tufts and large yellow eyes.  Because of their small size (you could hold one in your hands!) they feed mainly on smaller prey items like snakes, frogs, rodents, and various large insects. Fun fact: they don't actually screech. Their name comes from their cousin, the Eastern Screech-Owl, who's call can be a very high pitched cry.
It is estimated that there are fewer than 250 Western Screech Owls left in Canada, making them a nationally Endangered species. Their decline is due almost entirely to loss of habitat. They live in creek-side woodlands, nesting only in natural cavities in large black cottonwood trees. There are very few healthy stands of cottonwood left in the South Okanagan because much of the human development in the area has centered around the valley bottoms where cottonwoods naturally occur.

What can you do to help the Western Screech-Owl?
Care for cottonwoods
Protect cottonwood trees if you have them on your property, or if you live near a forested stream or river, consider planting some cottonwoods of your own.
Maintain riparian (riverside) areas
Riparian areas are one of the ecosystems that are most heavily impacted by human activity. It is often cleared for urban development and agriculture, roaming livestock and recreational activities erode riverbanks and spread invasive species. By supporting riparian conservation and restoration efforts, you can help protect the habitat that the owls need most.
Install nest a box or two  
Nest boxes mimic the natural cavities that occur in large mature cottonwoods. By installing nest boxes, you can give the Screech-Owls somewhere to raise their young even if there are not enough cottonwoods in the area. To obtain a nest box or to acquire plans to make your own box, please contact us using the information found in the link above. Nest boxes should be installed a certain way: the link above also describes how to care for screech-owl boxes.

Listen If you live near a river or other waterway, you can listen in the evenings during the late winter and early spring to discover whether there are Western Screech-Owls in your neighborhood. Click the above link to find out what they sound like and what they look like. Remember, Screech-Owls are small - about the size of a Grande coffee cup from your favorite coffee place. The larger, similar-looking Great Horned Owl is more the size of a laptop computer and has a very deep hoot.

Do you think there may be Screech-owls on your property? Let us know!
Have you found an injured Western Screech Owl (or any other injured owl or bird of prey?) Contact the SORCO Raptor Rehab Centre at 250-498-4251

Volunteer Opportunity: Hike & Bike Path Community Clean Up


Tuesday, November 29
1pm - 4pm
Help us clean up the Oliver Hike and Bike Path along the Okanagan River
This area is home to federally listed Yellow-breasted Chat, Western Screech Owl, Painted Turtles, Tiger Salamanders and a variety of songbirds.
Meet us at the trailhead parking at Tucelnuit Dr and Hwy 97
Gloves, tools, snacks and refreshments provided!

Okanagan Landing Pollinator Garden Fundraiser

Last year, Okanagan Similkameen Stewardship worked with Okanagan Landing Elementary to plant up a large pollinator garden in their schoolyard.  Students are now fundraising for more plants and garden supplies by selling cards they have created.  Cards and envelopes are available for a minimum donation of $2 for 4 cards (pick up only).  To make a donation, contact Mrs. Sheila Monroe by calling 250-542-1181.

Thank you to our partners and funders

Thank you to our partners and funders