News Room

Poll shows park support

Apr 10. 15

By Deborah Pfeiffer, Castanet

B.C. Environment Minister Mary Polak has responded to a poll showing increased support for a national park in the South Okanagan Similkameen.

In a statement received Friday, Polak said:

"We do not support a national park reserve for the South Okanagan. Instead, we have started a process to explore a provincial approach to meet the varying interests in this diverse region.

"This is why I am engaging with First Nations and various groups to understand their vision for the area.

"These discussions will help identify flexible, provincial tools available to ensure the protection of significant geographic and cultural values, while also providing recreation and tourism opportunities.

"I have heard the importance of First Nations cultural values in land management, as well as the protection of environmentally important areas, the promotion of tourism and the enhancement of outdoor recreation opportunities."

Polak said she understands the importance of protecting these values, while also preserving long-standing economic and culturally significant activities, such as hunting and fishing.

An independent poll shows growing support for a proposed national park, says the South Okanagan Simikameen National Park Network.

During the five years since an identical telephone survey was conducted, local support for the park has increased from 2:1 in favour to more than 3:1. Opposition has fallen to 21 per cent.

"It is extremely gratifying to see there is a strong majority of support for the park and that it is continuing to grow," said Doreen Olson, co-ordinator of the National Park Network. "We live in an environmental hotspot, a hidden treasure that is different from anywhere else in Canada. People here know that it is a special place and understand a national park is the best way to protect our amazing landscape and critically endangered wildlife."

The poll, conducted March 9-13, found support was strong regardless of respondents' political leanings and that 79 per cent of ranching and farming households, and 67 per cent of households with ATVs and snowmobiles also support the park.

Additionally, almost nine out of 10 polled – 89 per cent – feel protection of endangered species is an important priority for the region. Nearly eight out of 10 residents (79 per cent) agreed with the statement regional MLAs should follow the lead of local chambers of commerce, tourism associations, regional governments and First Nations who support the national park process.

"This area has desert, endangered grasslands, badgers and bobolinks, and one third of B.C.'s endangered species," said Osoyoos Mayor Sue McKortoff. "This national park would protect more species at risk, more endangered habitat types and encompass a greater diversity of ecosystems than any national park in Canada.

"Only a national park has the money, mandate and expertise to protect and restore our endangered species and help protect our watershed."

In 2002, the provincial and federal governments formed a working group to see if a national park should be established in the South Okanagan-Similkameen.

A study was completed in 2010 that found a national park was feasible. Despite the report, the province walked away from the process in 2011, citing the need for more public support for the park plan.

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