Suspicious of national park intentions

Bob Handfield is a columnist for the Western News and past-president of the South Okanagan Naturalists’ Club.

Residents of the South Okanagan Valley have been hearing about the pros and cons of a South Okanagan Similkameen National Park fairly intensely for about 13 years with Parks Canada spending much of that time doing a feasibility study of the park concept.

The Okanagan First Nations spent more than a year doing their own feasibility study.  However, the provincial government pulled out of the park study group in December, 2011 saying there was insufficient support for a park. A recent Freedom of Information request by the Osoyoos Times revealed that in fact the cabinet had made the decision to pull out of the talks in January 2011 but kept that decision secret for just about one year.

Since then the provincial government has been adamant in its opposition to a national park.  Local MLA Linda Larson said only one year ago that she couldn’t understand why park supporters insist on “flogging a dead horse.” She went on to say that tourism wasn’t that important and she would much rather have ranchers than tourists.

However, on Aug. 13 the provincial government released what it called an intentions paper titled Protected Areas framework for British Columbia’s South Okanagan. The “dead horse” seems to have gained new life, at least temporarily. The intentions paper proposes that the level of protection be significantly upgraded for three areas of the South Okanagan — basically all of the area proposed by Parks Canada for a park plus some additional areas.  In fact they suggest that two of the three areas be considered by Parks Canada for a national park. How original!

While the intent of the province opens the door to a renewed conversation about the possibility of giving some of our rarest landscape national park status, there is a great deal about this intentions paper that smells very fishy to me. I don’t think it is a coincidence that the paper was released just two weeks after a federal election campaign got underway and with no advertising of the concept to the public. No open houses or information sessions were scheduled for the public to become informed or ask questions on this very important land use issue. In addition, only 60 days is being allowed for public comment so anyone wishing to comment must do so by Oct. 12.

Not only are we in the midst of a federal election, but school is just starting up and agricultural people are tied up with fruit and grape harvesting. The park issue has been around for at least 13 years — why the big rush now to get public comment within 60 days. In addition, the government has provided seven questions for the public to consider in responding to the intentions paper. To my mind, the questions are so generalized and require so much specialized knowledge of the areas in question that very few people, me included, are in a position to provide a meaningful response.

The government has requested that all public comment be submitted by way of their website and using only their questions. There seems to be no provision for people without internet access to be involved. A suspicious mind might think it is a ploy by the provincial government to keep comments to a minimum.

In discussing whether some of the area should become a national park, the intentions paper appears to put so many conditions on the park proposal that the same suspicious mind might conclude that the provincial government is actually hoping Parks Canada will find the proposal unacceptable and then the provincial Liberals can blame Parks Canada for there not being a South Okanagan National Park.

I really hope I’m wrong about all of this.

Bob Handfield is a columnist for the Western News and past-president of the South Okanagan Naturalists’ Club but the views expressed here are his own and not necessarily those of the Club.


Just Posted

Osoyoos chef Murray McDonald was ecstatic upon realizing he scored the $1 million guaranteed prize in the June 2, 2021 Lotto 6/49 draw. (Contributed)
Osoyoos chef ecstatic after bagging $1 million Lotto 6/49 win

Chef Murray McDonald was at home and ready to doze off to sleep when he got a text from his wife

(File photo)
Additional service coming to two Penticton bus routes

Both service changes were made to meet increased demand over the summer

It's believed the Sacred Hearts church on PIB land burned Sunday night. (Aileen Mascasaet Maningas)
UPDATE: Two churches on band land in South Okanagan burn to the ground

Sacred Hearts church on Penticton Indian Band land was reduced to rubble

The Coquihalla Lakes washroom is getting upgrades. (Submitted)
Okanagan Connector to get upgrades to aging washrooms

The Ministry of Transportation recently announced $1 million in funding for the upgrades

People at the beach in front of Discovery Bay Resort on Tuesday, July 14. (Michael Rodriguez - Capital News)
Heat wave forecast for Okanagan-Shuswap

Temperatures are forecast to hit record breaking highs this week

The border crossing into the United States is seen during the COVID-19 pandemic in Lacolle, Que. on February 12, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Paul Chiasson
VIDEO: Border quarantine to soon lift for fully vaccinated Canadians

Eligible travellers must still take multiple COVID-19 tests

Wild Sky Sisters
Wild Sky Sisters: Cancer Season

Wild Sky Sisters is a joint venture between Angela Moffitt and Tamara McLellan

A pair of Alberta residents were arrested after police responded to a report of a woman who had allegedly been assaulted and confined against her will on June 20, 2021. (File photo)
Salmon Arm RCMP arrest 2 Albertans suspected in alleged assault, unlawful confinement

Firearms, stolen items seized including NHL hockey cards believed to be worth thousands

One Reconciliation Pole and two Welcome Figures were unveiled during a ceremony in honour of truth and reconciliation on National Peoples Indigenous Day at the Vancouver School District in Vancouver, B.C., on Friday, June 21, 2019. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
Horgan marks Indigenous Peoples Day by urging recognition of systemic racism

National Indigenous Peoples Day has been marked in Canada since 1996

A man makes his way past signage to a mass COVID-19 vaccination centre at the University of Toronto’s Mississauga campus during the COVID-19 pandemic in Mississauga, Ont., on Monday, May 17, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
Canadians encouraged to see mRNA shots as interchangeable as more 2nd doses open up

Doctos urge people not to hesitate if offered Moderna after getting Pfizer for their first shot

Chief of Defence Staff Jonathan Vance sits in the front row during a news conference in Ottawa on June 26, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Defence committee rises without report on Vance allegations

Committee had been investigating the government’s handling of complaints against former defence chief

A 1969 Barracuda convertible like this one is being refurbished by Rust Valley Restorers and raffled off to raise funds for Habitat for Humanity Kamloops, which includes the Salmon Arm/Shuswap area. (Image contributed)
Rust Valley Restorers’ work will lead drive for attainable housing in Salmon Arm

Habitat for Humanity Kamloops’ Classic Car raffle features ‘69 Barracuda convertible

Motorcyclist critically injured in Westside Road collision

Motorcyclist collides with vehicle, struck by another: preliminary police findings

Asia Youngman (right) is pictured shooting another short film she wrote and directed titled Hatha. (Luba Popovic)
Peachland set to star in fantasy thriller film about N’xaxaitk’w — a.k.a. the Ogopogo

The film will follow an Indigenous teen as she navigates peer pressure, bullying and identity

Most Read