WATCH: South Okanagan national park proposal may get revisited
PENTICTON, B.C. — A proposal on a national park in the South Okanagan-Similkameen has been put on the back burner for the past two years, but it’s now sizzling back to the surface. The province’s finance committee is recommending that the B.C. government “work with the federal government and local stakeholders to assess the feasibility of and support for the establishment of a new national park in the South Okanagan-Similkameen.”
“The committee heard loud and clear from some of the individuals coming into our consultations, that they’d like it relooked at,” explains MLA Dan Ashton, who chairs the committee.
People who are pro-park are excited by the news.
“I don’t want to speculate as to why they pulled the plug on this process, but I’m just happy that they’re starting it up again,” says biologist Dick Cannings.
Cannings says there are many benefits to a national park designation, including the protection of nearly 6- federally-listed endangered species and the stimulation of the local economy.
The federal government already supports the idea of a national park, but Premier Christy Clark stated in 2012 that the province doesn’t support a national park because people don’t want one.
MLA Ashton says the proposed park is already being used by people who hunt, fish, ranch and mine.
He also says HMZ Topflight, a mountain flight training company, uses that area and has made huge investments of up to $6 million in the South Okanagan.
“I think it’s important on the stakeholders and individuals to sit down with the federal government and ensure that their rights are enshrined in the utilization of the park,” says Ashton.
But he also believes that those people can still use the park, while is established as a national park reserve.
The provincial government will make a decision based on this recommendation during the 2015-2016 budget in the spring.