Park would preserve natural heritage

Park would help conserve at least some of the species and ecosystems that were common in this region just a few generations ago

In his letter to the editor (Feb. 8), Mr. Goerlitz refers to a national park as protecting an “obscure” plant or bug. Obscurity is in the eye of the beholder. A species of plant or animal may seem obscure to those who don’t take the time to educate themselves about our local flora and fauna.

It may come from a less intimate perspective of the natural world, such as would be experienced while motoring by vehicle through the grasslands, rather than walking or indeed, getting nose-to-nose with the ground to see what lives there. It may come from not being out during hours when many animals are active, such as dawn, dusk or nighttime.

It may also come from the fact that a significant number of species that were to be protected by a national park are endangered or threatened, hence have become more obscure over time — their disappearance coinciding with increasing land demands from human-driven development since European settlement.

The bumper sticker promoting the national park has a photo of badger as its mascot. This is one of those locally endangered grassland species. Referring to a complex ecosystem as a “fallow wasteland” perpetuates a misperception of the true value of the proposed parkland.

The national park initiative is not about eliminating farming, ranching, forestry, and other natural resource-based economic activities in the Okanagan-Similkameen, but about setting aside a relatively small parcel of land to attempt to conserve at least some of the species and ecosystems that were common in this region just a few generations ago and are part of Canada’s national heritage.

The person with his camera at ground level is a local, well-known and highly respected biologist. According to the dictionary, a biologist is a specialist in the “study of the science of life or living matter in all its forms and phenomena, especially with reference to origin, growth, reproduction, structure and behaviour.” It is a job, just like a mechanic.

And just as I wouldn’t bring my car to a biologist to get the engine fixed, I would not feel confident in letting those who have no training or educational background in biology or ecosystem conservation be credible as experts on what needs to be done to protect our natural heritage. Unfortunately, that also includes many of our politicians.

Laure W. Neish