Marty Ropego is a Recreation, Fish and Wildlife student at Selkirk College. Photo: Submitted

Marty Ropego is a Recreation, Fish and Wildlife student at Selkirk College. Photo: Submitted

Ecological Comment: Proposed national park reserve splits communities

A column written by Recreation Fish and Wildlife students at Selkirk College

Canada is home to many ecologically diverse regions, ranging from temperate forests and arctic barrens, from extensive coastlines to vast planes. Across the country, many of these regions are protected as national parks and national park reserves. Parks like Banff National Park in the Rockies and Gros Morne National Park Reserve are renowned across Canada and the world for their natural beauty and recreation opportunities.

The proposed Okanagan-Similkameen National Park Reserve aims to protect a unique habitat and still provide recreational opportunity in the region. For many years, there has been a battle to establish a national park reserve in this area. In July 2019, the Syilx/Okanagan Nation signed a memorandum of understanding with the federal and provincial governments to take the next steps in creating the reserve in this area.

The grassland and shrub steppe are some of ecosystems found here. They are along the edge of the Great Basin Desert and both have significant ecological, geographic, cultural, and economic values. An objective of the national parks system has always been to establish a national park in all 39 unique ecosystems found in Canada. The park proposed in the South Okanagan-Similkameen area would be one of those 39 ecosystems. This area contains two of the four most endangered ecosystems in Canada — the dry bunchgrass grassland and open Ponderosa pine forest. These areas are often endangered and are also the least protected with huge expanses already used intensively for agriculture.

The South Okanagan-Similkameen is home to 11 per cent of the species at risk in Canada, including more than 30 federally and 60 provincially listed species. This region has one of the highest densities of listed species in Canada. Some of the listed species include the American badger, western rattle snake; and flammulated owl.

Communities within the area are divided on the proposal. There are strong arguments on both sides. Those against argue that the park would impose federal rules on locals and the area. They believe it would limit their traditional access to habitat.

Residents note that a park would likely bring more new tourism to the already busy area, adding pressure on local resources. There are also concerns about increased crime. Economically, cattle ranchers have questioned if grazing and land tenures would be impacted. Those opposed to the park are not against conservation, however they would rather it come from a different source than Parks Canada.

On the other side are the supporters of the proposed park reserve. Parks Canada is willing to work with ranchers to ensure grazing lands, tenures, water and other resources will continue to be available. The creation of a park would enhance the local economy from its fees. Locals can rest assured knowing that they will not be charged to access their homes or private properties and the public highways will not be tolled. The delicate ecosystem and multiple species at risk would be protected under federal national park law to mitigate the impending pressures of recreational and agricultural development.

Currently, the South Okanagan-Similkameen national park reserve stakeholders are negotiating a formal establishment agreement with federal and provincial governments. Regardless of the outcome, the focus should remain on protecting diversity in Canada’s flora and landscapes, maintaining ecosystems, and supporting wildlife and plant habitat while providing and supporting economic and recreational opportunities in communities.

Marty Ropego and Shelley Hackett are second year Recreation, Fish and Wildlife students at Castlegar’s Selkirk College.

Environment

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

 

Shelley Hackett  Recreation, Fish and Wildlife students at Castlegar’s Selkirk College.

Just Posted

A nurse performs a test on a patient at a drive-in COVID-19 clinic in Montreal, on Wednesday, October 21, 2020. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Paul Chiasson)
30 new COVID-19 cases, five more deaths in Interior Health

This brings the total number of cases to 7,271 since testing began

Winlaw artist Lou Lynn is one of eight Canadians to win a Governor General's award this year. Photo: Janet Dwyer
Winlaw artist Lou Lynn wins Governor General’s award

Lynn is among eight artists honoured throughout Canada

The winged floater mussel can be spotted at Arrow Lake. Photo: Bill Chapman
LETTER: Native mussels visible at Arrow Lakes near Castlegar

Low water levels revealing native mussels

Castlegar’s Gabrielle Herle (right) will be one of the speakers at the conference. She is seen here with Wendy Gaskill from Chinook Scaffolding accepting their Contractor of the Year Award in 2019 from the Builders Code Champion Awards. Photo: Submitted
Girls in STEAM and Leadership Conference offered free for all girls in the Kootenay Boundary

Virtual conference for girls in grades 8 to 12 will be taking place on March 8

FILE – A COVID-19 vaccine being prepared. (Olivia Sullivan/Sound Publishing)
B.C. seniors 80 years and older to get COVID vaccine details over next 2 weeks: Henry

Province is expanding vaccine workforce as officials ramp up age-based rollout

Dr. Bonnie Henry talk about the next steps in B.C.'s COVID-19 Immunization Plan during a press conference at Legislature in Victoria, B.C., on Friday, January 22, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
456 new COVID-19 cases in B.C., 2 deaths

Since January 2020, 78,278 have tested positive for the novel coronavirus in B.C.

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

A health-care worker prepares a dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine at a UHN COVID-19 vaccine clinic in Toronto on Thursday, January 7, 2021. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette)
Vaccinating essential workers before seniors in B.C. could save lives: experts

A new study says the switch could also save up to $230 million in provincial health-care costs

The late Michael Gregory, 57, is accused of sexually exploiting six junior high students between 1999 and 2005. (Pixabay)
Former Alberta teacher accused of sexually assaulting students found dead in B.C.

Mounties say Michael Gregory’s death has been deemed ‘non-suspicious’

According to a new poll, a majority of Canadians want to see illicit drugs decriminalized. (THE ASSOCIATED PRESS)
Majority of Canadians think it’s high time to decriminalize illicit drugs: poll

More than two-times the B.C. residents know someone who died from an overdose compared to rest of Canada

Interior Health officially declared a COVID-19 outbreak at Creekside Landing in Vernon on Jan. 3, which was followed by the first death from the virus 10 days later. (Kaigo photo)
COVID outbreak over at Vernon care home

Creekside Landing cleared of coronavirus, despite additional death in last day

Photograph By @KAYLAXANDERSON
VIDEO: Lynx grabs lunch in Kamloops

A lynx surprises a group of ducks and picks one off for lunch

(Black Press Media file photo)
B.C. residents can reserve provincial camp sites starting March 8

B.C. residents get priority access to camping reservations in province

Most Read