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Policy Area 4: Environment

The natural environment of the North Okanagan is characterized by many diverse types of terrain, vegetation, and water features. Lush forests, alpine meadows, grasslands, wetlands, and rocky bluffs are interspersed with lakes both large and small, rivers and streams. Our natural areas are under private or public ownership; they provide habitat for terrestrial, avian and aquatic species; recreational opportunities for residents and visitors; may serve as rangeland for cattle, and are a source of timber and mining resources. While smaller in scale, natural areas exist within our urban areas as well and their value as habitat for birds and small creatures should not be overlooked.

Natural areas are sensitive to development and their balance and integrity can be disrupted by human activities. Protection of environmentally sensitive areas can be achieved in a variety of ways and to varying degrees through land use designations and regulations. Park land status provides the highest level of protection available to natural areas. Other forms of protection include conservation covenants, environmental Development Permit Area designations, and zoning regulations.

Air quality is an integral part of a healthy environment. While progress towards the use of renewable energy sources is being made, the combustion of fossil fuels releases air pollutants which can have adverse health effects. In addition, the burning of fossil fuels emits greenhouse gases e.g., carbon dioxide (CO2) and chlorofluorocarbons, which absorb infrared radiation and contribute to global climate change.

In 2007, the province of British Columbia announced that local governments would be required to include greenhouse gas emission reduction targets, policies and actions in Regional Growth Strategies and Official Community Plans. The North Okanagan RGS includes targets to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 15% of 2007 levels by 2020, and 25% by 2030.

How Are We Doing?

As part of the 2013 Quality of Life Survey, when asked to rate how well the North Okanagan’s undisturbed and sensitive natural environments are protected, respondents rated the quality of protection as slightly better than ‘fair’ which suggests that there is room for improvement. On the other hand, survey respondents rated their ability to access outdoor recreation areas as slightly above ‘good’.

The RGS reported that in 2007, it was estimated that there were 615,149 tonnes of CO2 emitted in the North Okanagan. Based on a population of 78,877 residents, the level of emissions equated to about 7.8 tonnes per person. The 2010 Community Energy and Emissions Inventory for the North Okanagan reports that there were 619,080 tonnes of CO2 emitted which, based on population of 83,139 equates to about 7.4 tonnes per person. This is a positive result indicating that progress is being made however more work will need to be done to meet emission reduction targets.

Increased ridership of public transit and initiatives such as the new Landfill Gas Management System can help to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.  The Landfill Gas Management System, constructed at the Greater Vernon Recycling and Disposal Facility in 2015, extracts and burns off gas generated by decomposing landfill waste. The system is continually monitored and carbon emission reductions are reported annually to the Ministry of Environment.