LETTER: Conservation fund re-examined

Writer says recent letter about a South Okanagan Conservation Fund is off the mark and contains some unwarranted assumptions.

Usually Elvena Slump is right on the money with her letters to the editor and I always read them with interest but I think her most recent letter about a South Okanagan Conservation Fund (Western News, July 20) is off the mark and contains some unwarranted assumptions.

To start with I’m not sure she is using the term leveraging in the proper context. In the conservation world, most projects are funded by a consortium of partners because most conservation organizations don’t have sufficient funds to undertake projects on their own. Thus the term leveraging in this context means that once a project (for example purchase of a fast disappearing wetland) is identified, seed money is sought from some group (for example, Ducks Unlimited Canada) and then other groups chip in their bits to raise the full amount required. In this example, Ducks Unlimited “leverages” their money with money from other groups to achieve the necessary end. So a local conservation fund would support some projects with “seed money” which would then be leveraged with other organizations to raise the necessary funding. To use the term “leveraging” in the context of lawsuits (Lakeside Resort) or the firefighters contract is totally misleading.

There is no basis in fact for Elvena’s assertion that property contributions will quickly increase from $10 per year to $25. The intent of this conservation fund is to set the contribution at $10 for a fixed period – most funds are for 10 years – and at the end of the 10 years the success of the fund would be reviewed and then either be renewed, cancelled or increased, subject to a vote of the RDOS Board. The Capital Regional District (Victoria and region) has had a conservation fund since 2000 and at the end of the first 10 years, the residents were so pleased with the results that they voted to increase the annual levy for the next 10 years. There are several other Regional Districts in B.C. that have similar conservation funds and there is not a single case of the annual levy being increased during the initial 10-year term.

Finally, her assertion that “very little remediation work will be done in Penticton…” is totally without basis. I can think of several projects within Penticton city limits that might well be candidates for funding from this source. Two that come to mind are further rehabilitation of the stream bed along Penticton Creek and work to save the oxbows on the west side of the city between the houses and the Channel parkway. But to argue that Penticton residents shouldn’t support a conservation fund because some or even all of the money in some years might be spent outside the city limits is short sighted at best. A healthy environment benefits us all and the residents of Penticton surely venture outside their city limits to enjoy our wonderful valley — Skaha Bluffs Park comes immediately to mind in this regard.

I am in favour of the proposed fund and urge everyone to get the facts straight before voicing an opinion.

Robert Handfield, Kaleden