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Okanagan Nation Alliance Protecting Nearby Grizzlies at Risk

(Photo Credit: Wikipedia)

The grizzly bear has been declared at-risk and in need of protection by the Okanagan Nation Alliance (ONA) Chiefs Executive Council.

ONA has recently received $39,000 under Canada's National Conservation Plan to reinvigorate recovery planning in southern central B.C for grizzly bears, called called kiʔ law naʔ in the nsyilxcen language. The project focuses on three remnant grizzly populations in the North Cascades, the Kettle-Granby, and the South Selkirks.

Though there has been a plan in place for the North Cascades, ONA Wildlife Biologist Al Peatt says that “the plan has largely languished for the past 10 years and so the nation is really interested in getting that reinvigorated and starting discussions again.”

“Kiʔlawnaʔ has been an integral and critical part of Syilx culture since time immemorial” said Grand Chief Stewart Phillip. “Its presence in Syilx Territory is an indicator of the health of Syilx land and people. We will work to build the supportive relationships needed ensure that kiʔlawnaʔ will remain and thrive in its natural environment.”

Peatt says that there used to be grizzly bears roaming over the Okangan Valley, though more so on the side hills and plateaus above. There still are “very remnant populations” of the grizzlies in the areas now.

“The Okanagan Nation's interest in grizzly bears extends over the entire territory, of course,” said Peatt. “The Syilx people have a responsibility to care for the land and all living things. Grizzly bears are very culturally important to the Syilx nation. Consequently, we're interested in ensuring that grizzly bears persist throughout the territory wherever they traditionally occurred.”

The project is trying to raise awareness about grizzlies in the Syilx territory, as well as building collaborative working relationships. “ If it's not undertaken,” said Peatt, “the potential for grizzly bear recovery in the territory is pretty low.” Part of the project will involve collecting traditional information about grizzly bears from both elders and knowledge-keepers. The recovery is meant to incorporate Syilx values and help pursue cultural needs.

ONA will also be working with Conservation Northwest and the Coast to Cascades Grizzly Bear Initiative in southwest B.C. to help other grizzly bear populations.

*Cover Photo Credit: BC Parks*

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