This herd of California bighorn sheep who frequent Westside Road in the Trader's Cove area will have a parcel of secure habitat now that Tolko's donated land for a regional park there.

Secure habitat will make sheep happy

A herd of wildly happy sheep can now frolic alongside Westside Road, with a gift of parkland from Tolko to the regional district

The California bighorn sheep herd that ranges along Westside Road near Trader’s Cove should be pleased about conservation of a plot of wild land owned by Tolko Industries as habitat for them.

The locally-based, family-owned forest company has succeeded in having 116 hectares of private land removed from its 141,975-ha Tree Farm License 49 west of West Kelowna, by the provincial government, but there are conditions.

Part of the agreement with the province for its removal from the TFL is that a portion of the local parcel be made available for improvements to Westside Road, which runs through it.

As well, Tolko has agreed to donate 30 ha of land—nearly half the parcel on Westside Road—to the regional district as parkland, primarily in order to provide habitat for the herd of bighorns who can frequently be seen crossing the road and grazing on the hillsides above the road.

Central Okanagan Regional District chairman Robert Hobson says they are glad to have the habitat which should make the sheep very happy, and road improvements will certainly be welcome.

When Tolko first came to the regional board in 2008 with its proposal for removing some of its private land for TFL 49, Hobson said the board didn’t support it because the regional district really didn’t want to see a lot of development out there, but he said it’s not really productive forest land, but it has high value as habitat.

Regional district parks director Murray Kopp said the property is located on the west side of Westside Road north of Trader’s Cove Regional Park and immediately north of Tolko’s log dump.

He said the new park will feature passive recreational opportunities such as hiking trails rather than active facilities.

This regional district is unique in the Okanagan for its regional parks program which has been in place since 1974. “And, we’re adding to it all the time,” he said.

With the $13 million regional park legacy program announced in 2007, the regional district has plans to continue to add to conservation parks in this area, he added.

Although no lake frontage is included, there will be lake views from the park portion of the property, which is hilly and steep in places. Part of the parcel is on the other side of the road, and includes a steep slope down to the lake.

Asked about its plans for the remainder of the property, Tolko spokesperson Jeanette Hoft said, “There are no current plans to do anything different with this land. Should this change, we will follow local zoning and other bylaws and provincial statutes and regulations that govern land use on private land.”

There were two parcels of forest land permitted to be removed from TFL 49 following a consultation process that involved First Nations as well as the regional district.

The other parcel is also privately-owned by Tolko and is in the Monte Lake area.