With regard to the proposed national park debate, I think that some of the complex and serious issues have not been laid out clearly. At the outset, I want to state that I am one of the individuals who raise cattle within the proposed boundaries and would be adversely affected should this proposal be implemented.
I think the world has changed a bit since former prime minister Jean Chretien started us down this road. We have become conscious that a 100-mile diet may be a good thing. Cattle on grasslands provide a ready, dependable source of protein for Okanagan communities by grazing on grasses that cannot economically be utilized in an other way.
We are living in a world today that experiences food shortages. In a recent speech given in Brussels, Belgium (The Western Producer, Feb. 2, 2012), Microsoft’s Bill Gates urged world governments to double agricultural research funding in order to increase agriculture output. Gates stated that there are one billion people now (15 per cent of the global population) who battle starvation every day. He said, “If you don’t fund the agricultural system, you leave these billion that wake up every day wondering if they’re going to get enough food.”
It could be argued on this basis alone that now is not the time to kill a healthy livestock industry — the Parks Act does not allow livestock grazing in a national park.
As has been stated before, much of the proposed area is already in a protected status. As for the remainder of land, the public should be aware that livestock in B.C. can be grazed on Crown land only upon issuance of a permit or licence by the Ministry of Forests.
Each permit or licence has incorporated into it a management plan which sets out the number of animals authorized to be grazed, the time frame or how long they can be grazed and the specific location where grazing can take place. This plan must be adhered to and is overseen by professional agrologists within the Ministry of Forests.
In order to protect species at risk on Crown land, the Ministry of Environment has identified and set aside wildlife habitat areas to protect species identified to be at risk. Examples of these would be the Lewis woodpecker, tiger salamander, antelope brush, etc.
I applaud Minister Terry Lake for his decision to put this matter to rest. Local MLA John Slater is also to be commended.