S. Okanagan-Similkameen National Park
Recently, the Okanagan Nation Alliance and the four South Okanagan bands asked the B.C. Government to return to talks to consider the establishment of a national park in the South Okanagan-Similkameen region.
“This is one of the most critically endangered ecosystems in Canada,” stated Chloe O’Loughlin, Director of Terrestrial Conservation for the Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society (CPAWS). “We applaud the Okanagan Nation and its bands for their continuing collaboration with Parks Canada and agree that this national park should move forward. Not only are national parks important for nature protection, they are also crucial for protecting First Nations culture and provide a strong economic benefit to the surrounding region.”
Earlier this month, B.C. Environment Minister Terry Lake stated that the proposed South Okanagan-Similkameen National Park did not have enough local support at this time. The federal government cannot proceed without the support of the Province.
The federal government, under leadership of Environment Minister Peter Kent, remains supportive of the national park. A national park provides the highest form of nature protection in Canada, while significantly helping the economy. Recent data from Parks Canada shows that a national park in B.C. provides annually, an average of $37 million in tax revenue and 20 – 25 directly park related jobs; in addition, a national park supports 570 indirect jobs in the community and approximately $49 million per year in visitor spending.
Regional support for the national park is strong within the community. In 2010, a McAllister public opinion poll showed that at least 63% of the citizens of the Okanagan-Similkameen Regional District want a new national park. As well, 3,200 tourism operators and businesses have written to the Premier stating their clear support.
“We urge Minister Lake to take a solutions-oriented approach, support the First Nations and provide the leadership required to establish a national park that will benefit nature as well as significantly improve the economy and develop hundreds of jobs,” said O’Loughlin.