Answers to some questions
about a proposed national park

Federal and provincial environment ministers and local First Nations chiefs announced last week that they will re-open talks to create a national park in the south Okanagan.

This was the latest step in long process that began in 2002, when a delegation of local mayors, First Nations leaders, and other concerned citizens met with Prime Minister Jean Chretien to convince him that a national park was needed in this area.

That visit led to a federal-provincial agreement, and in 2011 a feasibility study recommended proceeding with the park proposal.  The provincial government subsequently dropped out of the process, but re-entered it in 2016 with an intentions paper that eventually announced a renewed interest in a national park.

I believe that a national park would be a tremendous legacy for the valley, both in terms of conservation, the economic activity it would stimulate, and the facilities it would provide for resident and visitors alike.

Scientific public opinion polls have found strong support for the park proposal in the region, however it’s understandable that many local residents have questions and concerns.

I’d like to cover a few of those here, with the caveat that I can’t presume to know all the exact details of the final park proposal, since many of them will be worked out over the months (and years) to come.

What area is covered by the park proposal?  Previous park boundaries outlined in the 2011 feasibility study and the provincial intentions paper would suggest that the park would consist of the South Okanagan Grasslands Protected Area (Crown Lands on the east side of the Okanagan Valley from Mount Kobau south), and perhaps also the White Lake Grasslands Protected Area (Crown Lands southwest of Okanagan Falls) and the Vaseux Bighorn National Wildlife area.

Private lands are not included, as they would only be added to the park on a willing seller basis.  There will be no change in private land use regulations in place now as the result of a new park.

Ranching:  It’s important that any new park proposal should accommodate people who make their livelihoods on the Crown Lands in question, so it is heartening to hear that Parks Canada has indicated that this would be the first National Park allowing grazing exactly as it had been done under provincial regulations.

Helicopter training:  HNZ Topflight is a significant economic driver in the south Okanagan.  They now operate under permit with BC Parks and would have to obtain a similar permit from Parks Canada when a new park is established.  I recently met with HNZ, and they have already met with Parks Canada about their concerns; they are “cautiously optimistic” that this issue will be resolved to their satisfaction.

Fishing is allowed in National Parks.

Firewood cutting is already not allowed in the provincial Protected Areas that could become part of the new National Park.  Most people I’ve talked to get their firewood on the east side of the Okanagan Valley in areas not included in the previously proposed park boundaries.

If you have other concerns or comments, please email me at Richard.Cannings@parl.gc.ca.

9 COMMENTS

  1. Mr. Cannings, you have an e-petition sitting on your desk awaiting your sponsorship. You are supposed to represent your constituents yet you have not accepted this petition against the park.
    WHY?

  2. Local area landowners are very worried about how this might affect them. A quick glance at the National Parks Act, and examining what has happened to residents in other areas that have become subject to national parks, leaves a lot of very concerning questions unanswered. Even if these comments are true for the current proposed national park reserve, what happens when the area transitions to full national park status (as is the intention for all national park reserves)?
    Local residents have not been consulted during any of the current discussions surrounding the proposed park area. Having the support of a bunch of disconnected city-folk who want a new vacation spot is not enough. We are the ones who will be most affected by this project…and I can’t think of a single reason to turn this area, which is already protected under provincial jurisdiction, to the federal government.

  3. Wow. Great article sidestepping almost ALL of the issues locals have with the proposed parkland. Got to love how they’re sugar coating this and completely dumbing it down. How about running an editorial based on factual information that highlights some of the NEGATIVE aspects of the national park reserve proposal?
    Like the fact that landowners can only sell to the government. Or that those farming rights will only be provided to rangers already utilizing this space for pasture lease? Or how about the fact that the people who do privately own property in the proposed region are allowed to keep domestic animals, yet if one happens to step out of the fenced private land, rangers have the right to shoot it on the spot, plus fine the owner (starting at $10,000). Or we could talk about the fact that you need to purchase a permit to drive through the park land.
    Why are all of these editorials presented in favour of the proposal when SO MANY of the local residents are opposed? Let’s give the people info from both sides of the story so that people can actually be informed.

  4. John
    Thank you Mr. Cannings. This is a wonderful summary and represents the views of most of the citizens of this area. A national park would be a huge draw for tourists who want a park experience and be able to see a unique desert in Canada. I think it is a great way to protect and have this area available for our grandchildren and great grandchildren without being hacked up by quads and four wheel drive vehicles.
    thanks for the effort.
    The residents have been consulted and the resulting meetings were swarmed with the vested interest people to the point of fear in any wishing to speak in favour. It is too bad the naysayers are so short-sighted.

    • We “naysayers” were indeed consulted and already voted this down. It’s a shame that you folks who are trying to push this through don’t care about how it may destroy the lives and livelihoods of those living in the area.

  5. I don’t live in the area, but reading both sides, and looking from the outside in, it looks like a case of “Wild West” mentality. “We live here, and we don’t need no city slickers telling us how to live our lives.” When outsiders ask to share for what they see as a shared legacy, the locals resist change. Who’s right? Who knows?

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