Park in the public’s interest

Study shows national park here is not only feasible, but would provide what a substantial majority of local people want

We needed that! Collectively, we of the South Okanagan–Similkameen needed to see the product of eight years of rigorous scientific study reporting on the feasibility of a national park here. The study, a collaboration of senior bureaucrats within Parks Canada and the B.C. government, incorporates studies of a wide spectrum of knowledgeable experts — from biology through to economics. The study is also the product of hundreds of meetings with local individuals, organizations and businesses. The report of that comprehensive SOS national park feasibility study was recently released as a result of a freedom of information request.

The report shows quantitatively and unequivocally that a national park here is not only feasible, but would provide what a substantial majority of local people want. Park supporters outnumber opponents two-to-one. The report identifies solutions for every concern. The park can be established respectfully to those stakeholders with legitimate concerns.

The feasibility study recommends governments of Canada and British Columbia proceed toward establishment of a national park reserve here.

A national park would be much better than the current situation. It would be better for people, better for the land and better for nature. The South Okanagan–Similkameen is one of the four most endangered ecosystems in Canada. Landscape fragmentation and degradation put nature evermore at risk here. Further, the federal government would bear the lion’s share of costs of establishing and managing the national park, thereby relieving B.C. of a cost burden, which judging by provincial budget cut-backs, is hard to bear. Management by Parks Canada would be far superior to B.C.’s management capacity.

So now it is unequivocally documented that benefits of a national park are high and costs are low. In that context, it is baffling in the extreme that our B.C. politicians apparently want to walk away from this golden opportunity. They reject the majority of locals that support the park, and the professional advice of their own senior bureaucrats. To justify that untenable position, they have offered no quantitative reasoning of the scientific calibre of this feasibility study. Can we collectively afford to let our B.C. politicians’ anti-science position prevail?

It is my conviction that if together we lack the courage to establish a national park here, we will guarantee our enduring legacy of shame. If we forfeit this opportunity, it will never come again. Future generations will look back, from their perspective of a once-beautiful landscape lost to fragmentation, and say, “While they had the opportunity why did our forefathers not conserve this land? Why were they so short-sighted?”

Let’s inform our politicians that we prefer instead an honourable legacy. One in which future generations will look back with gratitude saying, “Thank goodness our forefathers created this cherished South Okanagan–Similkameen national park while it was still feasible.”

Bob Lincoln