As park proponents, we know the national park reserve will only enhance the quality and health of the landscape, by preserving this natural space from human-inflicted stress and development. As a Canadian national park, this land will be preserved and become a natural representation of one of Canada’s diverse environments. Parks Canada is organized on behalf of Canadians to “protect and present nationally significant examples of Canada’s natural and cultural heritage and foster public understanding, appreciation and enjoyment in ways that ensure their ecological and commemorative integrity for present and future generations” (Parks Canada Mandate). The national park designation would bring in large amounts of funding and resources from the federal government to ensure that this precious environment is rightfully protected.
Those who do not currently support the national park have raised some questions about changes the establishment of the park may bring.
For the most detailed information on the proposed national park reserve, read the official feasibility assessment released by Parks Canada here and the local First Nation (Okanagan Nation Alliance) feasibility assessment report here.
Local Land Use
Will the national park impose unreasonable restrictions on use of the lands?
No one likes to be told what they can and cannot do on their land. However, coming together as a community to decide how we can address some of the growing environmental concerns in the Okanagan-Similkameen is crucial. The cumulative effects of high intensity ranching and unregulated use of motorized vehicle recreation in the region have created irreparable damage to many local ecosystems and species. For more information on threats, visit this page.
Will we loose local autonomy to the National Government?
The community skepticism over bureaucratic imposition is a reasonable concern. However, the benefits that national administration will bring to this issue outweigh this concern. Parks Canada will infuse the economy with millions of dollars each year. The national park system will bring vast resources and expertise to this local conservation issue, and will do so in perpetuity. The National Park system in Canada has been protecting Canadian wilderness and boosting local economies for over 100 years. The Canadian National Park System is a world-class conservation organization, with few better examples of sound environmental management in the world.
Consider the many other small-scale national parks throughout BC and judge for yourself how these well-protected regions are benefiting the local area. Check out a list here. In comparison to many of these parks, the proposed South Okanagan-Similkameen national park is relatively small (at 296 sq kilometres).
Why Not a Provincial Park Instead?
In Canada, national parks provide the highest level of habitat protection. We want a national park reserve to protect this important conservation area because it provides a greater amount of national resources and funding that will be put towards the maintenance and management of the environment. On average, a Canadian national park receives over $8 million a year in funding.
Recently there have been some legal changes around around the protection of provincial parks. With the passing of Bill 4, the government is now able to permit to industrial exploration. For this reason, provincial parks are not currently as well protected as national parks, which afford a greater level of protection.
Will ranchers loose their land and livelihoods from government intervention?
Because of the cultural significance of ranching in the region, ranchers will still be able to carry out their agricultural practices, just as before. In addition, they have the option of selling their land to Parks Canada or keeping it in their family. Local ranchers will have the opportunity to collaborate with Parks Canada through an adaptive management framework.
Hunting and Fishing
Will hunting and fishing be allowed in the park?
Hunting will not. Some species that are hunted annually and will have a safe-haven within park boundaries. These species need and deserve a refuge where they can regenerate without this annual threat. There are many other local regions where hunters can carry out this recreational pursuit.
Fishing will be allowed in the park.
Will motorized ATV recreation be allowed in the park?
No. This form of recreation can greatly damage the fragile habitats within the region. Parks Canada will be actively working to protect this natural area from further ecological damage. Those of us who use motorized vehicles can enjoy this recreation in many other local areas.
HNZ Topflight Helicopter Training
Is HNZ Topflight Helicopter Training going to be continued?
Yes. The South Okanagan National Park Network has addressed HNZ Topflight Helicopter Training’s opposition to the proposed national park reserve. Parks Canada has repeatedly confirmed that HNZ Topflight Helicopter Training, a business that existed prior to the establishment of the national park reserve, is entitled to continue operating there. Parks Canada has confirmed that they will be given a permit and a management plan similar to the one that they currently have with the Province.