PHOTO Illustration courtesy BOB LINCOLN


A family of Bighorn sheep graze among the sagebrush and bunch grass of the Southern Okanagan. The pocket desert near Osoyoos is home to one-third of B.C.’s at-risk species.

On Valentine’s Day, as you’re clinking wine with your sweetie, consider your glass of grapes. If you sip Okanagan wine, remember the environment that produces it.

The Okanagan region is one of the most endangered places in B.C., not just due to land conversion to wineries. It’s a popular place. People are moving there in droves and this tender ecosystem continues to disappear at an alarming rate.

With low rainfall and warm summers, it’s an oddly desert-like world relative to soggy Vancouver, alive with rare plants, rattlesnakes, and owls the size of pop cans. But our heavy human footprint on this landscape is unsustainable. In this vanishing world, over one-third of B.C.’s species at-risk now must cling to their lives. They need proper protection of some of their land before it’s too late.

Lucky for them we’re halfway to the creation of a great national park, a place that promises research, ecologically sensitive trails and knowledgeable staff to safeguard our fragile species. Lucky for us, too — given the natural heritage the park will protect.

This Valentine’s Day, revel in the moment. Obey cupid, drink your wine and snuggle up. And consider giving back to the Okanagan.

If you love the Okanagan like we do, give politicians a little public push. You can support this vitally important park by signing an online petition ( And fall in love with this dry world at the bottom of British Columbia.

Kai Chan is an assistant professor and Canada Research Chair at the Institute for Resources, Environment, and Sustainability (IRES) at UBC. He’s a transdisciplinary environmental researcher, integrating ethics and social and natural sciences. Carrie West is the communications co-ordinator for the Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society, B.C. chapter.

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