I would like to respond to a few items in Mark Brett’s article Dec. 7 on the proposed national park reserve.
The oft-repeated refrain from the Grasslands Coalition of the “increased deer and bear numbers” that will automatically follow the declaration of a national park reserve has no basis in fact. The ecological and other factors influencing wildlife population increases and decreases are extremely complex, multi-faceted and imperfectly understood. For the coalition to argue for over eight years now that removing one ‘extractive’ human activity, hunting, from the national park reserve area will automatically cause wildlife populations to increase greatly and to descend on humans like a plague of locusts is simple ignorance and/or deliberate melodrama.
In addition, few wildlife species stay within artificial human boundaries, so will be as subject to hunting and the dangers of other human interventions when on non-park lands as they are now. As to “the possible danger of wildfires,” Parks Canada is noted in North America, if not around the world, for its expertise and experience in both preventing and fighting wildfires. I often wonder if the people who Brett quoted have ever been to the Rockies or other national parks.
The spokesman for Canadian Helicopters refuses to believe Parks Canada’s reiterated statement that the company will be given a licence to fly in the national park. Blind paranoia can’t be countered by sweet reason; however, his comment that “… there’s no motorized vehicles, there’s no aircraft allowed in a national park.” is incorrect in my experience, though I wish he were right. In backpacking in Banff NP, for example, I and my companions have suffered the serious annoyance of helicopters ferrying tourists to and from Assiniboine Provincial Park. Such flights are limited to certain days and in numbers of flights, but they are allowed. Perhaps unfortunately, there are relatively few human activities that are forbidden even in national parks.
Finally, intended or not, the last paragraph of the article implies that supporters for the park are limited to “a number of individuals and conservation groups”. This is far from the truth. Along with these people, declared national park reserve supporters include a very large number of individual citizens, business people and people in public office throughout the South Okanagan. In a poll carried out locally a couple of years ago on the creation of a national park reserve, 63 per cent of respondents said they support a park. (For the national park opinion poll, google www.sosnationalpark.ca.) In an earlier poll on conservation of lands in this fragile area, an even higher percentage of respondents said that we’re not protecting enough. In a petition supporting the park, 9,000 of the 20,000 signatures were from people in the proposed park reserve area; and in any case, a national park is just that, for all Canadians.
Nothing in life is perfect, but a national park will be the best possible way to increase protection for the land and its wild inhabitants and will provide excellent economic opportunities as well.