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I was recently meeting in the South Okanagan in British Columbia with CPAWS colleagues that are working on the creation of a National Park in that region. We went on a short tour of the proposed park area in and around Osoyoos, Oliver, Penticton, and surrounding area.

It was a remarkable and beautiful landscape. Desert grasslands are not an area I've known much in my years in eastern Canada. Encountering reptiles, cactus plants, raptors and burrowing owls made for an impressive array of species for me.

We also met with the folks at the Burrowing Owl Conservation Society of BC who are doing incredible work to reintroduce this beautiful species that has traditionally been present throughout the landscape. Burrowing owls have been seriously in decline as a species, and we learned that one of the main reasons for this is the decline of the badger.

Why, you might ask, would the decline of the badger population have a devastating impact on the burrowing owl?

Well... it seems that the burrowing owl uses the badger's holes to nest. When the badger isn't around to make holes, it leaves the burrowing owl to inadequate nesting places.  With fewer burrowing owls, the population of deer mice and grasshoppers gets out of control. And you don't need to ask a rancher or farmer twice about the impact of abundant species. Just another reminder about how one species in a given ecosystem can have an impact on the whole thing. Including us.

Protected areas and parks help to ensure healthy habitats for all species - including the endangered ones. We need to seize the opportunity to create these protected areas before it's too late for them. Reintroducing species is incredibly expensive, time-consuming, and often fails. Imagine the cost savings of just ensuring that habitat remains suitable and healthy in the first place!

CPAWS will continue to work hard to ensure that more of our wilderness is protected for all species, including our own. Because  we are intimately linked to nature, whether we realize it or not.

Burrowing Owls