Recently (Western News, Dec. 5) MLA Dan Ashton stated that he supported the national park on the condition that all of the existing activities were accommodated. Sometimes statements like this sound like political manoeuvring, but in this case Aston is right.
The ranchers, helicopter company and mineral tenure owners are pre-existing businesses that must and will be accommodated – the Province and Canada agreed to this in their initial inter-government agreement in 2002 and this was covered in the 2011 provincial/federal feasibility report?’ recommendations.
For hunters, they got over 50 per cent of the proposed park removed as that part had the high value hunting. The only things that exist in the grasslands that they can hunt are mule deer and game birds (and an occasional bear and cougar in the non-grasslands part of the park). The feasibility study recommended that this be accommodated on lands outside the proposed park.
Fishing is allowed in a national park. ATVing in the grasslands is illegal.
As chair of the Province of B.C.’s Select Standing Committee on Finance and Government Services, Ashton had to be neutral. Yet, this committee stated that the economic and job development opportunities were so significant, and the support was so strong, that they recommended that the Government of B.C. work with the federal government and local stakeholders to support the establishment of a national park in the South Okanagan-Similkameen. The national park dossier is on the Premier Clark’s desk. Only she can initiate negotiations between the Provincial government and Parks Canada.
I believe that negotiations will produce a series of proposals that will please the pre-existing businesses and all other users of the area.
A national park will keep that extraordinary landscape intact and undeveloped. Over 30 per cent of the province’s endangered species (i.e. 57 species) exist in the Regional District of Okanagan-Similkameen in a national park, these will be protected and restored. The Province’s own data identifies 334 species and 59 ecosystems in the RDOS as high priority for conservation, yet they don’t have the funds to protect them, the federal government is required by law to do this.
Ashton recognizes the incredible values (historical, ecological, educational and economic) that the park will bring to this region and supports the park on the condition that these issues are resolved. Will the park opposition be equally respectful and conciliatory? Will they support the park if their issues are resolved? Or are they hell bent on blocking these benefits from this region and the 3,500 other businesses that want the national park, no matter what?
Their current opposition could ensure that the economic, job development opportunities are lost, the land will become developed, and the species that make our region so unique will be lost forever.