Keremeos Columns – MapleCross Grasslands
Similkameen Valley, British Columbia
The Nature Trust of British Columbia – 2022
The Keremeos Columns – MapleCross Grassland conservation area is located in the Similkameen Valley within the traditional territory of the Smelqmix and Syilx People. This 194 hectare conservation area is adjacent to the 20 hectare Keremeos Columns Provincial Park, increasing the size of the protected land by almost ten-fold and connecting seven crucial and sensitive ecosystems.
The ecosystems include grasslands, sagebrush steppe, riparian, open coniferous woodland, mature forest, old forest and sparsely vegetated rocky outcrops. Low elevation grasslands are one of the most rare types of ecosystems in BC and support high concentrations of species at risk; protecting this type of ecosystem is a conservation priority.
This mixture of diverse and sensitive ecosystems provides habitat for a variety of at-risk species. The Western Yellow-bellied Racer (listed as Special Concern under Canada’s Species at Risk Act (SARA)) and the Western Rattlesnake (threatened under SARA), who are sensitive to habitat fragmentation and rely on contiguous low elevation grassland, shrub-steppe, and rocky outcrop ecosystems found in the Similkameen Valley, are known to reside within the conservation area.
Additionally, this conservation area supports the habitat needs of the Lark Sparrow, which was once common in BC, but is now primarily found in undisturbed shrub-steppe grasslands of the South Okanagan and Similkameen. The Watson’s cyptantha, an annual white-flowered herb that grows in the sagebrush steppe, blooms on this land, which is one of the few remaining places left in BC where it is known to grow naturally.
The Keremeos Columns Grassland conservation area has a rich history. Surrounded by Douglas-fir trees within this conservation area, vertical hexagonal basalt columns rise above the forest. The Columns are a unique geological formation that was created over 30 million years ago during high volcanic activity. The funds raised through this campaign will ensure this geological landmark is protected and can be appreciated by generations to come.
The Keremeos Columns formation is best observed from viewpoints within the Keremeos Columns Provincial Park.
This project was undertaken with the financial support of the Government of Canada through Environment and Climate Change Canada. This project has also been made possible by MapleCross and many individual donors.
Content and property pictures courtesy of: The Nature Trust of British Columbia at naturetrust.bc.ca