Feasibility study supports national park reserve in South Okanagan-Similkameen

May 15,2012         

For Immediate release:

Feasibility study supports the establishment of a national park reserve in the South Okanagan-Similkameen

Vancouver – The Province of B.C. is set to release the results of an 8-year study that concludes a national park reserve in the South Okanagan-Similkameen should be established.  The Province worked in partnership with the Government of Canada to produce the report. The Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society, Regional District of the Okanagan-Similkameen, and hundreds of other individuals and organizations have all been asking for the report to be released.  It was released as a result of a Freedom of Information request.

The study shows that a national park reserve is feasible, the proposed park boundary should be approved conceptually, and that the governments of Canada and British Columbia should agree to proceed towards its establishment. The Okanagan Nation and its bands are undertaking their own study, which is expected to be completed in the fall.

Chloe O’Loughlin, Director of Terrestrial Conservation at the Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society (CPAWS) is positive about the feasibility study’s results. “The study clearly shows that the national park reserve is both beneficial and popular, so we urge Premier Christy Clark to formally re-engage in discussions and negotiations with the Government of Canada. National parks are as popular as hockey and the Canadian flag. This one will protect critically endangered habitat, restore endangered species such as burrowing owls and badgers, increase the provincial GDP, provide much needed provincial tax revenue, and develop hundreds of new local jobs,” says O’Loughlin.

Several recent studies show that local support is 2 to 1 in favour of the park and the Regional District of the South Okanagan-Similkameen (RDOS) has called on the Province of B.C. to re-engage in the park study process.  This resolution followed multiple requests to the Province from diverse stakeholders across the region ranging from town councils, chambers of commerce and tourism associations to local businesses and conservation groups.

While the current land base is neither fully protected nor funded, a national park would provide the highest form of protection and significantly increase provincial revenues while providing economic and tourism benefits to local communities.  The proposed boundary of the national park reserve now includes 284 sq km of provincial parks and protected areas, multi-use Crown Lands and private lands.  Private lands would be secured on a willing seller and willing buyer basis. Due to the cultural importance of ranching in this area and community feedback about impacts to the ranching community, Parks Canada is committed to proactively work with the ranching sector over the long term.

The report notes several outstanding issues along with the ways that they can be resolved, and states that the national park would be established over time in order to allow for respectful adjustments for ranching and other activities in the region. A socio-economic assessment completed in 2008 concluded that there would be significant positive economic impact associated with the establishment of a national park reserve and no significant negative socio-economic impact from changes to regional land use.

“We are pleased to hear that B.C. Minister of the Environment Terry Lake supports the principle of national parks,” says O’Loughlin. The establishment of a national park reserve would provide unique educational and visitor opportunities in the region and would enhance the already well developed tourism economy in the South Okanagan. It would help local residents and all Canadians experience this area’s natural beauty and retain it unimpaired for future generations.

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For more information: Chloe O’Loughlin, Director of Terrestrial Conservation, Canadian Parks & Wilderness Society at 604-685-7445 ext 33 or 604-512-0428 (cell)

View CPAWS backgrounders and the report at:

South Okanagan-Similkameen National Park Feasibility Study

RDOS Resolution re: National Park

Support Material for the Resolution on the National Park