Elizabeth May calls for approval of National Park in Okanagan Valley
Elizabeth May, Canada’s Green Party leader and first elected Green Member of Parliament, is calling for final approval of a new national park in the South Okanagan and Similkameen Valleys in southern BC. May is supporting the federal government in its bid for a new national park in the region, and is calling on the BC government to finalize approval of the park’s establishment.
“A new national park in the South Okanagan and Similkameen Valleys in southern BC would be a real gift to the local people and to all Canadians that future generations will be most grateful for,” stated Ms. May. “It would be a first rate national park in every way – in protecting Canada’s most endangered ecosystems and species, in helping to support and promote local First Nations cultures, and in attracting and generating significant revenues and jobs into the region like all national parks do in southern Canada. After 8 years of study, it’s high time this park proposal receive final approval.”
The creation of new national parks requires the approval of both federal and provincial governments. The BC and federal governments signed a Memorandum Of Understanding in 2003 to examine the ecological and socio-economic feasibility of a new national park in the South Okanagan and Similkameen Valleys in BC. Since then, numerous studies and public consultations have taken place, showing major local and regional support for the national park.
Parks Canada has a mandate to establish at least one national park in each of Canada’s 39 terrestrial natural regions. Currently there is no national park to represent the Interior Dry Plateau natural region of BC, characterized by Ponderosa pine and interior Douglas fir forests, grasslands, and semi-desert in the South Okanagan Valley. The area is filled with unique wildlife and species at risk, including the white-headed woodpecker, burrowing owl, flammulated owl, sage thrasher, canyon wren, California bighorn sheep, badger, spadefoot toad, tiger salamander, spotted bat, and prickly-pear cacti, as well as the highly endangered “pocket desert” ecosystem near Osoyoos.
Besides helping to sustain the local ecosystems, First Nations, and economy, a national park in the region would also bring in additional fire management staff and resources to keep communities safer from wildfires. Parks Canada is one of the foremost agencies in Canada with an expertise in the science and management of wildfires through controlled burns and fuel reduction methods.
“This national park proposal is a great example of cross-partisan federal support. It was first initiated by the federal Liberal government, supported by the subsequent Conservative government through Parks Canada, supported by the federal NDP, and is certainly supported by the Green Party. I hope this first rate proposal will now receive its final approval from the province of BC for what will only be a winning initiative for all Canadians.”