Churn Creek Protected Area (CCPA) was established in July 1995 by the Province of British Columbia to protect nationally significant grasslands and associated wildlife. The Empire Valley Ranch was added in 1998, bringing the total area of CCPA to 36,747 ha.
Although CCPA contains significant Douglas-fir forests, the conservation and management focuses are grasslands and associated wildlife. Uninterrupted grasslands, which are among the most rare and threatened ecosystems in B.C., extend from the bottom of the Fraser River valley where big sagebrush is abundant to extensive mid elevation bunchgrass ecosystems and high elevation grasslands of the Interior Douglas-fir zone. Many of the grasslands are in near-natural condition. Detailed descriptions of the grasslands and their condition are contained in the CCPA Management Plan (March 2000).
Resident and migratory herds of California Bighorn Sheep are a principal interest in CCPA. These herds are among the largest in North America. With its extensive natural grasslands, CCPA also provides habitat for many of British Columbia’s most threatened plant and animal species.
Secwepemc (Shuswap) people have been a part of the CCPA landscape for thousands of years. The Tcexwe’ptem (Empire Valley) band occupied the area until 1862 when most died of smallpox and survivors moved across the Fraser River to join other bands. Today, the area continues to be important for people of the Stswecem’c (Canoe Creek), Xgat’tem (Dog Creek), and Esk’et (Alkali) communities. Evidence of early Secwepemc occupation is contained in physical remains and memories.
Ranching has had a long and complex history within the protected area, beginning in the late 1800’s and first decade of the 1900’s. Initially, many families settled in the area but the many small ranches were soon consolidated, eventually forming the modern Empire Valley Ranch. This ranch continues to operate within CCPA, with range management guided by the approved management plan and BC Parks.
For further information on Churn Creek Protected Area, including facilities, values, and history visit the BC Parks Churn Creek Protected Area website.