Re: April 29 email from the South Okanagan Preservation Society
There has been too much use of comparing a new National Park Reserve in the South Okanagan Similkameen to Banff – the oldest of 47 National Parks and National Park Reserves in Canada, beset with problems that Parks Canada has since learned to avoid.
Parks Canada’s Infrastructure Deficit. Parks Canada is not alone in suffering the impacts from restraints on its capital budgets and the need for rehabilitation and repairs. The Federation of Canadian Municipalities places the costs of rehabilitation and repair of core infrastructure in Canada (roads, bridges, highways, municipal water and wastewater facilities, etc) at about $200 billion – and this just at the municipal level.
In a move away from these older capital-intensive national park configurations, Minister McKenna stated on May 7, 2018, that she wants to hit the ‘reset button’ and have Parks Canada focus on ecological integrity as a top priority. Based on the Minister’s direction, Parks Canada scrapped a proposed bike path that was supposed to be built in Jasper National Park.
As a result of SOSPS actions, Parks Canada, not having an opportunity to meet with SOSPS and the environmental groups, rescheduled the two meetings and high-level Parks Canada staff, BC Parks staff and a senior advisor to Minister McKenna attended to answer question and concerns.
Public Consultations: A Minister’s Round Table on National Parks 2017 received input from 13,000 Canadians and organizations via public meetings, online surveys, email submissions and throughout social media. With respect to the National Park Reserve in the South Okanagan, it is our understanding that 39 separate meetings were held with stakeholder groups, and over 2800 online submissions were received during the consultation period earlier this year. The results of the public consultations will be presented to the public May 14-16 in Oliver, Osoyoos, Keremeos, and Penticton.
Critical Biodiversity and Ecosystems: In a recent report that was completed by the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services, it is estimated that one million species of plants and animals face extinction within a matter of decades. See: “One Million Species Facing Extinction, UN Report Finds” (Globe and Mail, May 7, 2019). If we, as humans, don’t commit to stop the environmental degradation and development of the critical lands, especially in our own backyard in the South Okanagan Similkameen, the unique flora and fauna will be even more at risk.
Tourism: There is no doubt that the National Park Reserve will encourage visitors to come to our beautiful part of the world. They are coming anyway. People come from all over the world for the wine, fresh produce from our orchards, beautiful scenery, and warm climate. A National Park Reserve will bring additional economic benefits – not related to major infrastructure development such as Banff and Jasper – but based on the natural environment.
The people who call the South Okanagan home have an opportunity at this time to protect an eco-system unique in Canada. It is very beautiful, but fragile. We have to preserve this special place before it is gone. What kind of a legacy do we want to leave our children, grandchildren, and future generations? And what about the future of our First Nations – their heritage and their culture?
A National Park Reserve is the best “tool” we have in Canada to accomplish these very important goals.
Doreen Olson, SOSNPN