Vancouver – The B.C. Ministry of Environment recently released a report confirming strong support for additional protection in the South Okanagan-Similkameen, including the creation of a new national park reserve. The report summarizes 3,460 responses to a proposal for new protected areas in the region, circulated between August and October 2015. The South Okanagan–Similkameen National Park Network (SOSNPN) gathered over 500 of these responses, including at local events such as Oliver’s Festival of the Grape.
“This overwhelmingly positive response echoes what local polling has consistently shown – that people see great value in having a national park in this area,” said Doreen Olson, Coordinator of the SOSNPN. “We are impressed with the number of local people and organizations that took the time to register their comments and support, and we are looking forward to the next steps in the process.”
The report indicates that landscape connectivity and species-at-risk were identified as key values that need additional protection, and that the majority of submissions support the inclusion of what the Province is referring to as “Area 2” within a national park reserve, instead of a provincial Conservancy as was proposed. In addition to its ecological importance, this area is of great cultural and spiritual importance to local First Nations, including Mount Kobau (Txasquin).
“It’s uplifting to see that the public supports local First Nations in their conclusion that this area deserves the higher level of protection and funding that comes with a national park,” said Peter Wood, Director of Terrestrial Conservation, Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society. “A third of all BC’s species-at-risk are contained in this small area, and it is one of the world’s rarest ecosystems.”
The report launch coincided with the Meadowlark Nature Festival, a local event held annually on the May long weekend, which has enjoyed huge popularity through the years and includes several tours of the area proposed for the national park.
“People love exploring the open spaces of grasslands. Ecotourism could be a huge draw for our region, but we need the resources that come with a national park, such as interpretation,” said Olson. “Many of the submissions reflected on the economic and public access benefits that a national park would be able to provide to this rare and sensitive landscape.”
The report is only the most recent of several (including Parks Canada’s Feasibility Study and the First Nations’ Feasibility Study) indicating a positive outlook for the creation of a national park, due to the significant economic and ecological benefits that would be achieved.
“This clearly opens a window for the Province to re-engage with Parks Canada and local First Nations to discuss next steps,” said Wood. “It’s at this stage that specific local benefits can be discussed, as well as how existing land uses will be accommodated. We look forward to this process moving forward.”
For more information:
Doreen Olson, Coordinator, South Okanagan- Similkameen National Park Network: 250 497 6869, firstname.lastname@example.org
Peter Wood, Director of Terrestrial Conservation, Canadian Parks & Wilderness Society: 604 761 3075, email@example.com
BC Government’s Intentions Paper and Summary of Submissions: http://www.env.gov.bc.ca/bcparks/planning/protected-areas-framework-s-okanagan.html
Recent poll on support for park: https://sosnationalpark.wordpress.com/2015/04/08/local-support-for-national-park-grows/
National Park Feasibility Study: http://cpawsbc.org/upload/South_Okanagan-Similkameen_National_Park_Feasibility_Study.pdf
Building a Syilx Vision for Protection (First Nations’ Feasibility Study): http://www.soscp.org/wp-content/uploads/2013/02/Assessing-Feasibility-Syilx-Final-Report.pdf