A UNESCO World Heritage site in the South Okanagan-Similkameen?
“Heritage is our legacy from the past, what we live with today, and what we pass on to future generations”
– UNESCO World Heritage Center, 2014
Creating a national park in the South Okanagan-Similkameen will bring greater local economic prosperity and legal protection to many threatened species. It will also provide a stepping- stone towards the exciting possibility of being nominated for a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Criteria for a UNESCO World Heritage Site
A UNESCO World Heritage Site must be of national and international importance and of “outstanding universal value”. When selecting a prospective Site, a group of representatives from 22 countries considers whether the area exhibits important interchanges of human and environmental values over time – a place that will be a lasting legacy for future generations. A significant amount of weight is placed on whether an area is “under sound protection, management, authenticity and integrity of properties” (UNESCO World Heritage Centre, 2014).
World Heritage Sites in BC
There are three other UNESCO World Heritage Sites already established in BC, all of which are located in National Park Reserves: (1) “SGang”, within the Gwaii Haanas National Park Reserve and Haida Heritage site; (2) Kluane / Wrangell-St. Elias / Glacier Bay / Tatshenshini-Alsek; and (3) the Canadian Rocky Mountain Parks, within the Yoho National Park and Kootenay National Park.BC’s other UNESCO World Heritage Sites earned this status, not only because of their environmental and cultural significance, but because they enjoy the highest level of protection offered in Canada. While the South Okanagan-Similkameen also has unique anthropologic and environmental features, it does not enjoy a similar level of environmental protection. In order to be considered for World Heritage status, a site must be fully protected, in perpetuity. With rapid environmental degradation taking place in the region, the opportunity to protect this rare natural habitats and biodiversity is vanishing.
Why not a provincial park instead?
A national park designation provides the highest level of protection in Canada, which would ensure the legal protection of the 57 species at risk in the Okanagan-Similkameen. A national park also brings in significantly higher amounts of funding and resources from the federal government, providing better community services, for example fire protection and water conservation.
For more information on the differences between a provincial and national park designation, visit this page.
Canada will be nominating sites for consideration by UNESCO in two years’ time. If the South Okanagan- Similkameen is to be considered as a candidate, we must act now to establish a national park, and we urge you to support this process as a first step towards obtaining a UNESCO World Heritage Site. This high level of protection will demonstrate the region’s significance to the Committee, while upholding the UNESCO World Heritage requirement to be under sound protection and management for future generations.