The first firm steps of establishing a new national park reserve in the South Okanagan and Similkameen were taken on Tuesday morning.
At Osoyoos, Parks Canada announced that a memorandum of understanding towards the creation of the park reserve had been signed between federal and provincial governments and local First Nations.
According to Parks Canada, the national park reserve will encompass 273 square kilometres in the Mount Kobau, Spotted Lake, Kilpoola areas of the South Okanagan and Similkameen, including BC Park’s South Okanagan Grasslands Protected Area.
“This is a significant step towards the establishment of a national park reserve in the South Okanagan-Similkameen,” said Parks Canada.
Parks Canada said the agreement was signed by federal environment minister Catherine McKenna, B.C. environment minister George Heyman, Chief Clarence Louie of the Osoyoos Indian Band and Chief Keith Crow of the Lower Similkameen Indian Band.
WATCH BELOW (Aired May 14, 2019): Parks Canada shares results from proposed South Okanagan-Similkameen national park consultation
In a press release, Parks Canada said “the South Okanagan-Similkameen is an ecological treasure. A rare ecosystem that runs from rolling green hills to semi-arid desert.
“For millennia, the sylix/Okanagan Nation has called this region home and has been steward of the land, water, plants and animals that make this place so special. It is home to 11 per cent of Canada’s species at risk, including American badgers, flammulated owls, yellow-breasted chats, desert night snakes and western rattlesnakes.”
It continued, saying “As we come to terms with the worldwide biodiversity crisis, we can’t afford to wait to protect nature for our kids and grandkids. – especially place as unique as the South Okanagan-Similkameen.”
WATCH BELOW (Aired Oct. 27, 2017): Efforts heat up to create a national park reserve in the south Okanagan.
Parks Canada said the governments of Canada and B.C. and the Sylix/Okanagan Nation signed a memorandum of understanding to formally work toward establishing a national park reserve in the South Okanagan and Similkameen.
First announced as a feasibility assessment in 2004, the national park reserve has proven to be a wedge issue, with plenty of people for and against it.
For example, the Town of Oliver called for a referendum while the mayor of Osoyoos personally supported the proposal.
Further, while the park has been given the go-ahead, there are still plenty of signs along Highway 97 opposing the park.