The South Okanagan-Similkameen National Park Network (SOS-NPN) welcomes the news on January 27th that the government of British Columbia has committed to reengage with Parks Canada and the Okanagan Nation Alliance on the creation of a National Park Reserve in the South Okanagan-Similkameen.
“The opportunity to establish a national park is disappearing as the land continues to be sold and fragmented. People living in the South Okanagan-Similkameen understand the importance of protecting this vital corridor for the unique qualities that define this region,” said SOS-NPN coordinator Doreen Olson.
Natural beauty, with habitat and species found nowhere else in Canada. 30% of Canada’s species at risk are found in the South Okanagan-Similkameen, including iconic wildlife like the American badger and burrowing owl. It is also severely threatened, with less than 10% of the historic grasslands in their natural state.
A National Park has been proposed for the region since 2002. However, the BC government pulled out of negotiations with Parks Canada in 2011. Since that time support in the region for the national park has grown with local First Nations, regional governments, conservationists and chambers of commerce coming out in favour of the proposal. In 2015 the provincial government announced a new conservation framework for the region, but did not re-open negotiations with Parks Canada around a national park.
The SOS-NPN is cautiously optimistic that the BC government’s January 27th announcement represents a first step to seeing a park established. “No champagne yet,” said Doreen Olson,“I’m hoping that it’s not just a promise and that there will be something solid. Promises can be kept or broken.”
The South Okanagan-Similkameen National Park Network. will continue to make the case for a National Park Reserve in the region. We hope to see the provincial government take concrete action in the coming months to protect these endangered grasslands.