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Timing is urgent for provincial government to finally re-engage in national park talks
Thank you for the excellent reporting about the national park in the Osoyoos Times in your Jan. 3 edition. Unfortunately, MLA Larson is providing us with confusing and inaccurate information.
The next step to establish a national park reserve is for the Province to inform Parks Canada that they will return to the formal process – not the other way around.
The Province abruptly left this process in 2010, so they need to initiate the next step.
If, as Larson reports, provincial staff are having informal, preliminary talks with federal staff, this is positive, but will go nowhere unless the Province formally re-engages.
The B.C. government needs to honour its own 2015 public consultation process, to which almost 3,600 individuals responded.
Results show that 92 per cent of respondents wanted a national park reserve and a strong majority want Mount Kobau (Area 2) included.
The last public opinion poll conducted in 2015 showed over three-to-one local support for the establishment of a national park.
Opposition to the national park has decreased significantly.
The B.C. government needs to seize the moment. The South Okanagan and Similkameen Valleys are undergoing a tsunami of change.
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.
This vulnerable landscape needs be secured as a legacy for our children and grandchildren.
Larson seems to be unaware that a national park reserve will provide a higher level of protection, funding and management than provincial parks at no cost to the B.C. government.
A national park would also provide the most benefits to nearby communities many of which are struggling economically.
There are a significant number of empty store-fronts on Main Street in Oliver and Osoyoos and Osoyoos almost lost its high school, while Penticton’s economy is also suffering.
Rather than seeing the land being broken up and subdivided for houses built on small acreages, we need a national park reserve to keep our landscape connected for wildlife, while bringing high paying permanent local jobs.
The South Okanagan-Similkameen is one of the four most endangered ecosystems in Canada and deserves the highest level of protection.
The 2015 public opinion poll showed that 89 per cent of local citizens believe that the protection of our endangered species is a high priority. National Parks are required by law to protect endangered species and have the expertise and funding to do this.
Parks Canada is also world renowned and respected for its wildfire management practices.
Our region is one of the last in Canada without a national park.
Back in 2003, both senior levels of government proposed an Okanagan-Similkameen national park.
We are still waiting for the Province to re-engage, rather than blocking, this process.
Imagine celebrating the establishment of our new South Okanagan-Similkameen National Park Reserve at Cherry Fiesta in Osoyoos on July 1 for Canada’s 150th birthday?
Doreen Olson, Co-ordinator,
South Okanagan-Similkameen National Park Network