Sensitive areas

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We have an inventory and maps of environmentally sensitive areas including creeks, wetlands, grasslands, old growth forests, sensitive ecosystems and the Okanagan Lake foreshore. Twenty-seven creeks and 278 wetlands have been identified within the city.  

These inventories help us, the development community and residents better protect, improve and enhance our environmentally sensitive ecosystems. 

The value of the natural environment to residents has been confirmed over the years as part of a number of public consultation processes including the Official Community Plan update (2011) and Citizen Survey (2012). Residents have stated that the protection of the environment is a priority.

Ecological significance of Central Okanagan basin

The Central Okanagan basin is an area of great ecological significance within B.C. and Canada. Our area is biologically diverse with numerous plant and animal species and contains many rare and endangered ecosystems. 

The Central Okanagan also has the highest human population density in the interior of B.C. and continues to grow rapidly. This area has also been subject to intense agricultural and development pressure leading to the division and damage of these precious ecosystems.


Studies have shown that about 80 per cent of wildlife are either directly dependent upon wetland and riparian ecosystems, or use them more frequently than most other habitat types. Additionally, some of our drinking water is taken from creeks in Kelowna. 

We completed the Sensitive Habitat and Inventory Mapping (SHIM) project to ensure all 27 creeks within Kelowna were accurately identified and mapped. SHIM is based on a provincial standard developed for fish and aquatic habitat in urban and rural watersheds in B.C.

Features that have been mapped

Several features have been mapped including culverts, bank modifications, obstruction, erosion and riparian condition. In the case of Mission Creek, only data from the top of the ravine has been collected at this time. To date, 151 kilometres of natural and channelized streams, springs, constructed ditches and over 200 wetlands have been mapped.

Special thanks to the Okanagan Basin Water Board and the BC Real Estate Foundation for providing grants that have made this project possible.


In 2011, a Foreshore Inventory and Mapping (FIM) project was completed for the entire Okanagan Lake foreshore as part of a regional process led by the Okanagan Collaborative Conservation Program. This comprehensive study is available below.

This FIM project addresses the status of the Okanagan Lake foreshore. It provides an easily accessible inventory of land use, shore type, riparian condition and anthropologic alterations throughout the study area.

Results & next steps

Docks were the most common modification observed along Okanagan Lake, numbering more than 2,700. Retaining walls were the second most predominant modification; there were close to 1,800 observed (some extending into the lake) that occupy nearly 20 per cent of the length of the lake. In total, modification of the lakebed in some form was observed along 47 per cent of the shore length. Full results can be seen in the complete report.

Data will aid in developing strong land-use policies, regulations and standards, and is intended to increase long-term environmental planning and protection of aquatic and riparian habitat. The project will also serve as a benchmark by documenting current foreshore conditions and will aid in foreshore protection initiatives. 

Central Okanagan Foreshore Inventory and Mapping documents
Sensitive lands

Sensitive ecosystems are landscapes within our area that are ecologically fragile and/or are recognized as rare.

The Central Okanagan Sensitive Ecosystem Inventory was undertaken in 2007 in response to a need for scientific information pertaining to wildlife habitat and sensitive ecosystems. This inventory identifies rare and fragile terrestrial ecosystems along low to mid-elevations in the Central Okanagan.

This inventory recognizes both sensitive ecosystems and other important ecosystems. Sensitive ecosystems include wetlands, riparian, old forest, grasslands, broadleaf woodlands, coniferous woodlands and sparsely vegetated ecosystems.  

Importance of protecting lands

Twenty-eight per cent of the Central Okanagan (6,041 ha) is made up of sensitive ecosystems, while other important ecosystems comprise 0.5 per cent (102 ha) of the area's 21,500 ha.  The study also illustrates that seasonally flood fields, broadleaf woodland, mature forest, old forest, wetland and sparsely vegetated ecosystems are all extremely rare in the study area. Riparian and grassland ecosystems are slightly less rare but are still infrequent.


A wetland is land that is saturated long enough to promote wetland or aquatic processes typical of poorly drained soils, hydrophytic vegetation (water-loving plants) and various kinds of biological activity that are adapted to a wet environment.

The primary goal of the Wetland Inventory, Classification, Evaluation and Mapping project was to ensure all wetlands within Kelowna are accurately identified and mapped. The Wetlands Inventory generates extensive benefits for the City and the public in terms of current and long-range planning.

Importance of protecting wetlands

Estimations suggest that more than 85 per cent of the wetland, valley bottom and associated riparian habitats have been lost in the Okanagan and many of the remaining wetlands are highly fragmented. 

Studies have shown that about 80 per cent of wildlife in our area are either directly dependent upon wetland and riparian ecosystems, or use them more frequently than most other habitat types. 

Wetlands act like giant sponges; they quickly absorb water. Wetlands reduce flooding by storing and slowly releasing rainfall and spring run-off. Okanagan wetlands contain crucial habitats for some rare species, including Tiger Salamanders and Great Basin Spadefoot Toads.