Local support for national park in South Okanagan-Similkameen grows to over 3:1 in favour

New public opinion poll reveals strong and growing support across the region

Osoyoos, B.C.– An independent poll showing wide-spread and growing local support for the proposed South Okanagan-Similkameen national park was released this morning by the South Okanagan-Similkameen National Park Network. During the 5-year period since an identical telephone survey was last conducted, the poll found local support for the park increased significantly from 2:1 in favour to over 3:1, and opposition to the national park had reduced markedly to just 21% opposed.

“It is extremely gratifying to see that there is a strong majority of support for the park and that it is continuing to grow,” said Doreen Olson, coordinator of the National Park Network. “We live in an environmental hotspot, a hidden treasure that is different from anywhere else in Canada. People here know that it is a special place and understand a national park is the best way to protect our amazing landscape and critically endangered wildlife.”

The poll, conducted during the week of March 9–13, found support was strong regardless of which political party people normally supported, and that 79% of ranching and farming households and 67% of households that participated in riding ATVs and snowmobiles also supported the national park proposal.

Additionally, almost nine out of ten residents (89%) polled felt the protection of endangered species was an important priority for the region, and nearly eight of ten residents (79%) said that regional MLAs should follow the lead of local Chambers of Commerce, tourism associations, regional governments and First Nations who all support the national park process.

“This area has desert, endangered grasslands, badgers and bobolinks, and one third of BC’s endangered species,” said Sue McKortoff, mayor of Osoyoos and director on the Okanagan Basin Water Board. “This national park would protect more species at risk, more endangered habitat types, and encompass a greater diversity of ecosystems than any national park in Canada. Only a national park has the money, mandate, and expertise to protect and restore our endangered species and help protect our watershed.”

In 2002, the BC and federal government formed a working group to see if a national park should be established in the South Okanagan – Similkameen region. In 2010, a feasibility study report was completed that found a national park was feasible and recommended that the Province of B.C. and Government of Canada begin negotiations immediately. Despite the favourable conclusions of the report, in 2011 the BC government walked away from the process, citing the need to see more support for the national park proposal.

“On behalf of the wine industry, I am really heartened to know that there is a strong majority of supporters for the national park across the region,” reported Kenn Oldfield of Tinhorn Creek Vineyards. “The national park is very important for our businesses and the economy of the region. It will bring international travellers to our wineries and build our wine region’s brand internationally.”

An economic study commissioned by the federal government found a national park in the South Okanagan Similkameen would produce 770 new jobs, $57 million in increased visitor spending in region, and $4.4 million in new provincial tax revenue.

“I believe we need the B.C. government to come back to the table and move ahead with establishing a national park that will protect this rare landscape and bring new jobs and more visitors,” said Oliver business woman Petra Veintimilla. “A national park will contribute to a stronger economy in this region of the Province, and I look forward to the creation of a park that works for everyone.”

The poll, conducted by McAllister Opinion Research, consisted of 501 telephone interviews. The area surveyed included the provincial ridings of Boundary-Similkameen and Penticton, as well as the Regional District of the South Okanagan-Similkameen. A poll of this size yields a margin of error of +/- 4.4% nineteen times out of twenty.

Click here for the full report and polling results

Click here for the executive summary of the report

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For more information please contact:

Doreen Olson, Coordinator, National Park Network: 250-497-6869, 250-490-6663 (cell); threegates@telus.net

Sue McKortoff, Mayor, Osoyoos, Director, Okanagan Basin Water Board: 250-495-7349; sMcKortoff@osoyoos.ca

Glenn Mandziuk, CEO, TOTA: 250-860-5999; ceo@totabc.com

Kenn Oldfield, Proprietor, Tinhorn Creek Vineyards: 250-498-3743; kenn@tinhorn.com