UPDATE 4:00 p.m.
While taking questions from reporters following the announcement, Environment Minister Mary Polak said they will be looking to preserve to current uses of the land.
“We are coming from the standpoint, that existing uses continue. That’s our starting place and that's the commitment that we made to people who have concerns about the existing uses that take place on those lands,” she said adding that Parks Canada appears to be more open to the discussion than in the past.
Chief of the Osoyoos Indian Band, Clarence Louie noted that the talks are still in their infancy, but said they are looking forward to discussions.
“These are pieces of land that are very important to all kinds of people in the province of BC, and the three first nations are willing to be at the table, willing to work through this complicated process, and to see where we wind up in the future,”
Federal Minister of Environment, Catherine McKenna issued a statement, welcoming the talks.
“A new national park reserve would provide an opportunity to protect one of Canada`s iconic natural and cultural landscapes and share this unique and inspiring landscape with Canadians and visitors from around the world.”
ORIGINAL 2:00 p.m.
A proposal for protecting lands in the South Okanagan is moving ahead.
The province announced Friday that discussions are moving forward "with the support and participation" of the Lower Similkameen Indian Band, Penticton Indian Band and Osoyoos Indian Band.
“I look forward to continue working with the area First Nations to ensure lands in the South Okanagan are protected," said Environment Minister Mary Polak.
"I know the South Okanagan is a unique area that holds a special place for many people, and I am pleased plans are moving forward to protect this beautiful region for future generations.”
The plan addresses three distinct areas in the region:
- Portions of the area west of Osoyoos towards the Similkameen River, and south of Highway 3 to the U.S. border including the Osoyoos Desert Centre, the lands around Spotted Lake, and portions of the South Okanagan Grasslands Protected Area sites of East and West Chopaka and South Kilpoola.
- Portions of the area west of Oliver towards Cawston, and north of Highway 3 to the southerly extent of the White Lake Grasslands Protected Area.
- Portions of the White Lake basin area south of Okanagan Falls and including areas in the vicinity of Vaseux Lake.
The province received more than 3,400 submissions on a document outlining its intentions.
“I’m pleased the proposal for South Okanagan is moving forward, and that protecting this special region is a priority. Thank you to British Columbians who took the time to let us know what values were most important to them. The South Okanagan is a unique area that encompasses many features, including geographic and cultural values, as well as recreation and tourism opportunities,” said MLA for Boundary-Similkameen Linda Larson.