National park study short on substance

A feasibility study conducted by local First Nations has breathed new life into the controversial proposal for a national park in the South Okanagan-Similkameen.

The $400,000 study released this week by the Okanagan Nation Alliance proposes negotiations between local First Nations and the federal government and recommends ONA chiefs write to the premier and cabinet to outline the results of the feasibility assessment, calling for the province’s expected re-engagement in future discussions.

The study calls for negotiations with Parks Canada, expected to take two to five years, that will result in a framework that provides for “co-operative management and decision-making” on the park matters.

The study even goes on to suggest that the 284-square-kilometre area of the proposed park be expanded to include land around White Lake and McIntyre Bluffs.

What it doesn’t identify is what, if anything, has changed since the province backed out of discussions on the park. At that time, Environment Minister Terry Lake said the province didn’t want to impose something on the local area that doesn’t have a strong level of support.

The ONA study provides no new information on support for the park. In fact, there is  nothing in the $400,000 study that would sway opinions on what proved to be an extremely divisive issue for the region.

The time for the Okanagan Nation Alliance to throw its support behind the park was before the process unravelled. The local First Nations bands who conducted the study had initially came out against the park concept. Those bands were conspicuously silent when supporters of the park fought valiantly to keep Parks Canada from shelving the plan early last year.

Throwing their support behind the park proposal now is akin to closing the gate after the horses have left the barn.



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