The proposed Okanagan Similkameen national park continues to be a very sensitive and, at times, emotional topic for many people of the area. We all recognize and understand the importance of protecting our unique environment, but we must also recognize and examine the potential impacts and implications that could affect the various interested parties. This area has been utilized for hundreds of years and consideration must be given to all users.
After almost 10 years of going through this process, there are still many unanswered questions relative to the establishment of a national park, including those of the First Nations. Further, there are many local residents who feel they do not have enough information about the proposed park to make an informed decision. While there have been many surveys conducted by local as well as outside organizations, it is clear the major thrust is preservation of our environment. What is needed are solutions that are balanced and that can be agreed upon by all concerned.
We live in a very unique area of Canada and we certainly wish to retain this ‘uniqueness’ through the creation and maintenance of an environment that is locally determined and that meets the needs and interests of all concerned including ranchers, environmentalists, businesses, recreational users, forestry, mining and those of the First Nations.
There have been many changes and many park evaluation processes in place over the past nine years and I would like to take this opportunity to thank everyone who has put so much of their time and effort into this project — both those ‘for’ and those ‘against’. While there appears to be considerable support for the concept of a national park, it is clear that the level of local support is insufficient to change land use in such a dramatic fashion. There are existing methods available to protect the invaluable grasslands and we will continue to explore these options. Meanwhile, it is important to provide certainty for local residents, which is why I support the province’s decision to withdraw from the national park initiative.
Thank you for taking the time to share your views.
Boundary Similkameen MLA