One of the challenges that local governments face in making land use decisions is acquiring accurate ecological information to support their decision making. Most regional districts can’t afford to invest in scientific studies to look at every corner of their jurisdiction and most residents are naturally averse to development destroying the special features in their backyards. Finding the right balance on these issues is an ongoing challenge for policy makers.
In the South Okanagan, a new set of maps and conservation rankings produced by the South Okanagan-Similkameen Conservation Program provides comprehensive biodiversity reporting targeted for the regional district and its municipalities. Each report includes a detailed map that shows the conservation and habitat connectivity values for each jurisdiction along with a report that outlines priority areas and existing regulations.
Accessing this type of information is one area where partnerships between conservation organizations and regional governments can have benefits for both parties. While not all organizations will be fortunate to have the wealth of data that can be found in the South Okanagan, most are knowledgeable about local biodiversity hotspots and priority areas. Working with local government can protect key areas or influence planning decisions.
We can’t expect these partnerships to protect everyone’s backyard, but they can help identify and conserve the best of the best, those places that we would all be poorer to lose.