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It’s time for province to listen to community leaders and citizens in favour of national park
It’s time for the province to respect all parties regarding the creation of a national park for the South Okanagan.
Since 2010, the province has acknowledged the results of the eight-year feasibility study that took place in this region – a report that acknowledged that a national park is feasible.
And they have stated that they need to see support from regional districts and municipalities, tourism, business and First Nations in order to transfer land (i.e. the Grasslands Protected Areas) to the federal government to be part of a national park.
These governing bodies have now expressed their support through formal resolutions. Most of the resolutions have two parts – to encourage the province to return to discussions with the feds and to consult them throughout the process.
Why is this important?
They want the province to negotiate a national park that also allows cattle grazing and flight training, as promised. And they want to be consulted so that they can help develop a tourism-community benefit package, which the province can negotiate when they re-engage in the process with the federal government.
These benefits could be substantial.
When the Rouge National Park was established in Ottawa in 2012, Canada allocated $140 million dollars to be spent over 10 years to establish the park and $7.6 million per year to operate the park.
Compare this with what the province is currently providing in the existing South Okanagan Grassland Protected Areas – one part-time summer staff person and a budget of less than $40,000 per year.
When a national park is established, additional community benefits could be negotiated by the province.
For example, a world-class cultural centre was negotiated when Gwaii Haanas National Park was established. This has enabled the Haida to collect, maintain, and display their precious and historic artwork as well as any museum in the world, while bringing tourists to the area and producing hundreds of jobs to Haida Gwaii.
For many years, decisions related to the national park have been presented as either pro-park or anti-park.
What these community leaders are making clear is that there is another group interested in the national park – a group of duly elected leaders and governing bodies who are looking for a win-win for everyone and who want to negotiate benefits that will synergize their communities and sectors.
It is time for the province to respect the requests, made formally, by the communities’ leaders, duly elected officials, and governing bodies that represent regional districts, municipalities, tourism, business and First Nations rather than the people who oppose any discussion of the solutions and opportunities at all.
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