I read with interest Robert Handfield’s article (Penticton Western News, Dec. 16, Local government conservation funds).
The Regional District of Okanagan-Similkameen as well as holding a series of public information meetings to outline changes to environmentally sensitive development permits has been gathering public feedback on the establishment of a nature conservation fund.
Since 2009, the RDOS has been working in partnership with the South Okanagan Similkameen Conservation Program (SOSCP) to create the biodiversity strategy, keeping nature in our future. Completed in 2013, the strategy refines information on sensitive areas in the RDOS and makes up-to-date recommendations for critical directions and opportunities for conservation and stewardship.
Several B.C. communities such as Central Okanagan Regional District, (CORD) Regional District of Central Kootenay and Regional District of East Kootenay have had great success with local conservation funds. Much has been written in glowing terms about the $12-million purchase of a lakeshore park in Kelowna. What has received little mention is that this purchase was due to the funds garnered by CORD with its annual conservation fee added to the region’s tax bill each year.
According to Bryn White (SOSCP) there are ample grants available for any conservation work done in an area such as ours which greatly enhances the use of such funds. We are one of three areas that has a biodiversity that exists nowhere else in Canada and in some cases nowhere else in the world.
The SOSCP program is attempting to improve environmental biodiversity by working with the various councils and regional districts. Yet we hear nothing about this from Penticton council which has opted out of the current round of public engagement. This year Penticton council spent $400,000, including grants restoring Penticton Creek; yet their planning is lacking and needed cohesive action when you consider the planned destruction of the memorial trees at Skaha Park; not only on the 100-plus bird varieties that use that area, but the many transitory birds that visit on their way north. I believe we have a responsibility to ensure that we do not harm this delicate environment that we are privileged to call home. Our resident Western Painted Turtles date back to the dinosaur era, 85 per cent of our wetlands in the Okanagan have already been destroyed. We need some biodiversity remediation and restorative work along our waterways in Penticton. As little as $10 to $15 annually per homeowner would be a good start.