A coalition of First Nations, government, and academics have been working to address the cumulative impacts threatening the long-term viability of Okanagan Lake.
The scope of kɬúsx̌nítkʷ (Okanagan Lake) Responsibility Planning Initiative (OLRPI) includes clean drinking water, habitat for fish and wildlife, erosion, and flood control. The initiative consists of the Syilx Okanagan Nation, Regional District of Central Okanagan (RDCO), the Ministry of Forest Lands, Natural Resource Operations and Rural Development, and the University of British Columbia. The planning process incorporates Syilx-led values regarding Okanagan Lake stewardship, using input from Elders, youth, knowledge holders, hunters, fishers, and harvesters.
The OLRPI grew out of the response to the Okanagan Lake Foreshore Inventory and Mapping reports that were done in 2017 and identified large-scale loss of natural areas around the foreshore of the lake as well as riparian areas. The Okanagan Collaborative Conservation Program (OCCP) is also involved in the project.
“The overall objective of the project is to design specific actions to show us how to protect water and land in the watershed,” said Scott Boswell, program manager, in a presentation to the RDCO board at their April 14 meeting.
Board Director Jordan Coble said he was thrilled with the initiative and its strategy.
“It’s about time that we put Indigenous law, Indigenous perspectives, and Indigenous peoples first when it comes to planning and protection of our water,” said Coble. “It also connects us to one another, that’s the original acknowledgment of the word Sylix. It connects us as people, as individuals, but it also connects us to all the other aspects of life.”
The RDCO board received a $300,000 grant from the Vancouver Foundation to fund the OLRPI from 2021 to 2023. The board also approved $25,000 in the 2022 budget to help fund the initiative.