Thompson-Okanagan

Regional Overview

The Thompson-Okanagan region is located in the southern interior of British Columbia. It is bordered by the Kootenay-Boundary’s Monashee Mountains to the east, the United States to the south, the South Coast’s Cascade Mountain Range to the west, and Mount Robson to the northeast. Major cities in the Thompson-Okanagan region include Kelowna, Kamloops, Vernon and Merritt.

The geography in the Thompson-Okanagan is varied. It spans 75,126 km2 and contains over half of British Columbia’s main ecoregion types (biogeoclimatic zones), rare and unique grassland ecosystems, numerous lakes, wet mountain ranges, and some of the driest places in Canada.

Notable water features in the region include the Thompson, Similkameen, and Nicola Rivers; and Okanagan, Adam’s, and Shuswap Lakes. The Adam’s River is also located in the region, which notably has the second largest sockeye salmon run in British Columbia.

The Thompson-Okanagan region has a human history dating back over 10,000 years, and is rich with the indigenous history and culture of the Secwépemc, Syilx, Nlaka’pamux, and St'át'imc nations. 

Activities and Trends

Tourism, agriculture, mining, and forestry have been the predominant industries in the Thompson-Okanagan region. Ranching is abundant across the region, and orchards and vineyards are common in the South. The natural resource economy in the region is beginning to change, with an increase in renewable energy development. Residential development, transportation, and recreational activities have also been increasing within the region.

Populations in the Thompson-Okanagan region continue to grow, which has resulted in significant urban interface pressures, such as fuel and watershed management.

The region has also experienced several major disturbance events over the last decade, including wildfires and pest infestations. In particular, 2017 and 2018 saw the Thompson-Okanagan experience wildfires and flooding of an unprecedented scale.

Climate change is predicted to increase the frequency of these events in the future, put greater pressure on aquatic systems, and increase summer drought. Further research and planning are needed to increase the region’s resilience to climate change. 

Work Underway

As part of the Cumulative Effects Framework, there are 6 values that are undergoing assessment within the Thompson-Okanagan region. These include:

  1. Watershed/Aquatic Ecosystems
  2. Forest Biodiversity
  3. Moose
  4. Visual Quality Objectives
  5. Pine Marten
  6. Grizzly Bear

Implementation of the cumulative effects framework in the Thompson-Okanagan region builds on the demonstration project completed in the Merritt Timber Supply Area.