Study rekindles debate over national park

NDP critic slams B.C. Liberals for handling of a feasibility study on a South Okanagan-Similkameen national park

It was “disgraceful” for the provincial government to release a national park feasibility study only after it became the subject of multiple freedom-of-information requests, says the opposition environment critic.

“I’ve just been unimpressed by the way (the B.C. Liberals) have tried to end a process that they signed on to,” said Rob Fleming, the NDP MLA for Victoria-Swan Lake. “The way they’ve ended it is disgraceful.”

The feasibility study on a South Okanagan-Similkameen national park began in 2004 and was led by Parks Canada with provincial backing. The final report was submitted to the B.C. government in January 2011. It was finally released Tuesday after at least two FOI requests, including one from the Western News.

Ultimately, the report finds a 284-square-kilometre park is feasible and recommends the B.C government adopt the proposed boundaries at a conceptual level.

The study also includes the results of a Parks Canada survey from 2007 that showed 39 per cent of respondents supported the park, 19 per cent opposed it, and 43 per cent offered no opinion.

Environment Minister Terry Lake said 39 per cent support was simply not enough to drastically reshape land use in the region.

“We look for more support than 39 per cent,” he explained in a statement that did not address the mechanics of the study’s release.

“There are many ways to protect conservation values through provincial systems,” Lake continued, “and we’re certainly willing to look at all those opportunities in the future.”

John Slater, the Liberal MLA for Boundary Similkameen and a park opponent, said it would have created too much uncertainty for those who play and work in the area, particularly farmers and ranchers.

“It’s too risky,” Slater said.

As for the government’s delay in releasing the feasibility study, Slater said he deferred to the Environment Ministry: “Terry Lake’s the minister and he felt that their staff should be dealing with it, and justifiably so.”

The feasibility study does outline plans to mitigate local concerns, such as those raised by 12 ranchers who graze cattle within the proposed park boundaries. It said Parks Canada would be willing to buy some of those properties, and also adopt an “adaptive management framework that supports continued livestock grazing.”

Other mitigation efforts deal with concerns from hunters and helicopter companies whose activities could also be curtailed. The biggest concession noted is the 57 per cent reduction in the proposed park size from its original 654 square kilometres.

Parks Canada has already set a precedent with respect to grandfathering user groups affected by new parks, said Chloe O’Laughlin of the Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society. She cited examples like ski hills in Banff and Jasper, and a mine in a park in the Northwest Territories.

O’Loughlin agreed with the NDP’s Fleming on both the need for further public discussion of the park and for the province to reopen the file after seven years and likely millions of dollars were spent on the feasibility assessment.

“All the local people who participated in that research were told that it would be open and transparent and their opinions would count,” she said, “and now that the report is finished, I think the natural thing would be for the province to honour that process.”

Local First Nations are still completing their own feasibility study of the park idea, although Osoyoos Indian Band Chief Clarence Louie was uncertain when it will be done.

Parks Canada declined an interview request.


Park facts

The proposed national park was scaled back from a 654-square-kilometre version pitched in 2006 to the 284-square-kilometre edition examined in the feasibility study. The proposed park was in two pieces:

Northern Component

– 10 sq. km

– Centred on existing conservation areas around Vaseux Lake

– Potential interpretive theme: Snakes and Lakes

Southern Component

– 274 sq. km

– Finger-shaped and running from roughly the same latitude as Keremeos in the north to the Canada-U.S. border in the south, between Keremeos in the west and Oliver and Osoyoos in the east

– Includes 93 sq. km in the South Okanagan Grasslands Protected Area, 83 sq. km of multi-use Crown land, and 98 sq. km of private land.

– Would consolidate five parcels of protected areas and span five distinct ecosystems

– Potential interpretive theme: From the Desert to the Stars


Source: Parks Canada feasibility assessment



Just Posted

Geordie Fife exits the dunk tank during 2017’s Discovery House Father’s Day festivities at Skaha Lake Park. The fundraiser helps raise awareness of the work done at the house and break down the stigma associated with addiction. (Western News File)
Discovery House Father’s Day fundraiser goes digital

The addiction recovery program will be rolling out videos ahead of the fundraiser

The proposed design of the five-storey building on Front Street. (City of Penticton)
Five-storey building proposed for Penticton’s Front Street

It will be the second time the proposal will head to council

“65 years, I’ve carried the stories in my mind and live it every day,” says Jack Kruger. (Athena Bonneau)
‘Maybe this time they will listen’: Survivor shares stories from St. Eugene’s residential school

Jack Kruger, living in Syilx territory, wasn’t surprised by news of 215 children’s remains found on the grounds of the former Kamloops Indian Residential School

RCMP thanked the public for assistance in finding Benjamin Archie, last seen in Princeton. (RCMP)
Missing Chilliwack man found safe and sound

The 80-year-old had walked away from his home in Chilliwack

57-year-old Kathleen Richardson was discovered deceased in her home Wednesday, June 9, 2021. Her death is considered a homicide and connected to the slain brothers found on a Naramata forest road. (Submitted)
Naramata community in shock as condolences pour in for homicide victim Kathy Richardson

Richardson was well liked in the community, a volunteer firefighter with a home-based salon

At an outdoor drive-in convocation ceremony, Mount Royal University bestows an honorary Doctor of Laws on Blackfoot Elder and residential school survivor Clarence Wolfleg in Calgary on Tuesday, June 8, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh
‘You didn’t get the best of me’: Residential school survivor gets honorary doctorate

Clarence Wolfleg receives honorary doctorate from Mount Royal University, the highest honour the school gives out

Two-year-old Ivy McLeod laughs while playing with Lucky the puppy outside their Chilliwack home on Thursday, June 10, 2021. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress)
VIDEO: B.C. family finds ‘perfect’ puppy with limb difference for 2-year-old Ivy

Ivy has special bond with Lucky the puppy who was also born with limb difference

A million-dollar ticket was sold to an individual in Vernon from the Lotto Max draw Friday, June 11, 2021. (Photo courtesy of BCLC)
Lottery ticket worth $1 million sold in Vernon

One lucky individual holds one of 20 tickets worth $1 million from Friday’s Lotto Max draw

A logging truck carries its load down the Elaho Valley near in Squamish, B.C. in this file photo. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chuck Stoody
Squamish Nation calls for old-growth logging moratorium in its territory

The nation says 44% of old-growth forests in its 6,900-square kilometre territory are protected while the rest remain at risk

Flowers and cards are left at a makeshift memorial at a monument outside the former Kamloops Indian Residential School to honour the 215 children whose remains are believed to have been discovered buried near the city in Kamloops, B.C., on Monday, May 31, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
‘Pick a Sunday:’ Indigenous leaders ask Catholics to stay home, push for apology

Indigenous leaders are calling on Catholics to stand in solidarity with residential school survivors by not attending church services

(Heather Lueck image)
Crash north of Enderby knocks out power, slows Highway 97A traffic

A witness shared images of a medical helicopter landing at the scene

The RCMP presence in Central Okanagan public schools is being reviewed by the board of education. (File photo)
RCMP presence welcomed in Central Okanagan public schools

Staff survey feedback overwhelmingly positive from students, staff and parents

Most Read