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Swan Lake Wildlife Management Area Proposal Information Summary

The proposal has been initiated by the BC Ministry of Forests, Lands and Natural Resources in association with the Crown Land Securement Partnership Program.

  • Swan Lake and its foreshore (approximately 470 hectares) is proposed for establishment as a Wildlife Management Area (WMA) under section 4 of the Wildlife Act.
  • This area has long been recognized as being one of the most significant wetland habitats and water bird staging and breeding areas in the Southern Interior and for its importance in providing critical nesting, staging and year round habitat of several species.  Furthermore, the lake provides a critical resting and feeding stop for migratory birds travelling along the Pacific Flyway, the main provincial migration corridor.  The lake is one of the only remaining low elevation shallow, marshy lakes in the Okanagan, and has been recognized provincially as one of British Columbia’s 39 most important wetlands.
  • There is a long history of attempts to protect this area.  Efforts in the 1990s were put on hold pending the completion of the Okanagan Shuswap Land Resource Management Plan (LRMP).  In 2001 the Okanagan Shuswap LRMP made a consensus recommendation for Swan Lake and its foreshore: “Designate as a Wildlife Management Area (WMA), and a management plan is to be developed for this area, picking up from where the old WMA process left off in 1994.”
  • A WMA designation would allow for a special level of protection and management of this regionally significant habitat not provided by other legal tools.
  • This designation would allow for more consistent management and monitoring of the area and it’s important species and habitats while still allowing certain types of activities or developments to continue.  Existing rights will continue.
  • All that is being considered and going forward at this time for Cabinet approval is the actual WMA designation.  There are no proposed regulations or restrictions.  The designation does not bring the ability to restrict floatplane access or allow motorboat restrictions.
  • If the designation is approved it will give the Ministry of Forests, Lands and Natural Resources (FLNR) the authority to work together with First Nations, stakeholders and the public to create a management plan for the area and enable a shared vision and greater stewardship of the lake.
  • The potential key management stressors identified for the area include illegal infilling, excavation, wharf construction, burning or cleaning of riparian vegetation and pollution.  The Swan Lake Water Quality and Land Use Assessment shows evidence of septage and agricultural runoff from adjacent lands.
  • Since the November 24, 2016 open house, FLNR staff have received numerous calls, letters and emails both for and against the WMA.
    • Those for the designation would like to see the area conserved for wildlife and wildlife habitat and are primarily concerned about current and increased boating and floatplane activity.
    • Those against are primarily concerned about future restrictions and regulations mainly on their present motorized recreational (i.e. boating and floatplane) use.

Next Steps – 2017

  • Continue dialogue with First Nations to determine interests within the WMA proposal area.
  • Continue communication with the regional district, municipal government (Vernon) and the public.
  • Prepare decision notes to begin process to seek approval for the WMA.  There is no date set for the proposed Swan Lake Wildlife Management Plan to go before Cabinet.

Existing Wildlife Management Area and Associated Restrictions

There are currently 29 Wildlife Management Areas (WMAs) in place.  The most recent was designated in 2016 for Lhá:lt/Harrison-Chehalis.  Some of the restrictions in place are as follows:

  • Cluxewe WMA:
    • Dogs on leash
    • No campfires
    • No camping
    • No motor vehicles
  • Green Mountain WMA:
    • Dogs on leash
    • No motor vehicles
  • Parksville Qualicum Beach WMA:
    • Dogs on Leash
    • “No Dogs”
    • No camping
    • No campfires
    • No motor vehicles
  • Quatse Estuary WMA
    • Dogs on leash
    • No campfires
    • No camping
    • No motor vehicles
  • Tofino Mudflats WMA:
    • Dogs on leash
    • No campfires
    • No camping
    • No motor vehicles
  • Dewdrop WMA
    • Motor vehicle restrictions
  • Columbia River Wetlands WMA
    • 10hp motor restriction on navigable waters portion and 10hp motor restriction on non-navigable portion (swamp / upland grassland)
    • The former was through transport Canada following a 19 year process

Existing Regional District of North Okanagan (RDNO) Regulations

Mainly covered in Regional District of North Okanagan Electoral Areas “B” and “C” Official Community Plan Bylaw No. 2626 (adopted September 3, 2014).

Development permit areas are found in Section 16.2 for the whole lake.  This includes a 30m setback from high water in which a Riparian Areas Regulation Assessment is required prior to a building permit being issued.

The map (Schedule J) also references the Development Permit Area.  In addition, section 16.3 designates lands with high or very high conservation values as requiring development permits.  The map (Schedule C2) shows these areas.  For very high designated areas, a qualified professional assessment and report is required as part of the development permit process.