South Okanagan national park formation going slow

Slow pace with nat'l park

Little new information came from an update from Parks Canada presented to the Regional District of Okanagan-Similkameen on Thursday regarding the progress of a proposed national park in the South Okanagan.

Sarah Boyle, Parks Canada point person for the long-debated and often-contentious reserve, told the board that Parks Canada has been working on connecting with regional municipal leaders, area directors and other officials over the past year to discuss concerns.

“So those are really to address targeted meetings that were held with local experts, who really wanted to make sure that Parks Canada is aware of the level of information and knowledge that they have on the land and that was particularly related to wildfire and invasive species management,'' she shared.

Plans for future discussion are to include grazing and flood management, flood prevention and monitoring.

“We're currently working on using available information for species at risk and wildlife road mortality mapping and undertaking those exercises. When that information is ready and available, we're happy to share that.”

A public update letter was released in August of this year, which included content of the concerns of constituents from the regional directors and the local leaders.

“In terms of response for the public letter, we tend to get a whole range of responses. We get everything from, ‘Why isn't this park here now’, `We don't want this park’, to ‘Thanks for the updates.”

Boyle added that otherwise, there were not specific additional questions that came from the letter back to Parks.

However, questions brought up by local officials on behalf of their constituents led Parks Canada to confirm that there will be no expropriation of private lands; acquisition of private property will occur only on a willing seller-willing buyer basis.

Alongside this, provincial Crown lands that are within the working boundary of the proposed national park reserve, including the existing South Okanagan Grasslands Protected Area, will remain under the jurisdiction and management of the Province until the proposed national park reserve is established.

Commercial timber harvest within the proposed boundary is temporarily suspended until a decision is made on park establishment.

Updates to local elected leaders will continue to come from Parks a few times a year or when new information is available.

A memorandum of understanding between the Government of Canada, the Government of British Columbia, and the Syilx/Okanagan Nation was signed in July 2019.

The negotiations towards an establishment agreement for the proposed national park reserve will continue and all three parties will need to approve and sign the final agreement in order to establish a national park reserve.

The last update to the board was made in Fall of last year, where Parks Canada agrees to consistent meetings with local governments.

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