Consultations are now underway to collect public input on a comprehensive plan designed to protect the region’s natural assets.
The strategy identifies environmentally sensitive areas, outlines why they should be protected, and sets out ways to do so, but recognizes that people have needs too.
“It’s balancing the fact that we’ve got a working landscape with the fact we’ve got some fairly significant values for nature in the region,” explained Bryn White, program manager for the South Okanagan Similkameen Conservation Program.
White’s organization worked with 50 partner agencies to develop the Keeping Nature in Our Future strategy, which contains dozens of recommendations for all levels of government.
Those recommendations include region-wide standards and bylaws for biodiversity protection, establishment of a regional conservation fund, and development of tax and financial incentives to increase private-sector support for the cause.
The strategy also mapped the region’s land base and assigned rankings based on sensitivity of local ecosystems; it applied a high, or very-high, conservation ranking to two-thirds of the area.
Following a series of open houses, the plan and a summary of public input will be forwarded to the board of the Regional District of Okanagan-Similkameen for consideration. The RDOS got the plan moving in 2010 as a companion to its regional growth strategy.
“We’re hoping that it helps be a resource for decision-makers as they move forward,” White said.
Open houses have already taken place in Naramata, Okanagan Falls and Oliver. Further sessions are planned for March in Princeton, Keremeos, Penticton and Osoyoos.
“What the the regional district’s looking for through these open houses is a sense of whether people support their continued involvement in the strategy and its implementation,” White said. “I think that’s come out clearly, that there is a lot of support.”
The full strategy and information on open houses can be found online at soscp.org. Public feedback forums are also available through that website. The forms, and requests for information, can be submitted via email to firstname.lastname@example.org.