On the eve of a crucial meeting of opponents of the proposed South Okanagan-Similkameen national park, one of the project’s key backers has warned he’s not yet sold on the idea.
Osoyoos Indian Band Chief Clarence Louie says in an open letter there are still too many unanswered questions about the park proposal for his band or other members of the Okanagan Nation Alliance to endorse the concept.
Louie notes the feasibility study currently underway by the OIB and Lower Similkameen Indian Band is mainly rehashing a previous study released in 2012.
“And neither I nor the Osoyoos Indian Band has received the necessary information that a proper feasibility study would provide in order to have an educated opinion on being for or against the proposed national park,” he writes.
Chief Louie continues later, “I am in favour of a national park if, and a big if, the feasibility study and negotiating meetings lead to an agreement that covers off the many issues and concerns that Okanagan First Nation people have.”
Those concerns include legal protection of Aboriginal land title, hunting and fishing rights, co-management, jobs and more.
The Okanagan National Alliance, which represents seven First Nations in the region, in 2017 made a tripartite announcement with the federal and provincial governments to confirm a renewed commitment to establishing a national park in the region.
Chief Louie is among those expected to be present at a public meeting tonight at 6:30 at the Sonora Centre in Osoyoos organized by the anti-park South Okanagan Similkameen Preservation Society.
“An open-mic dialogue will be used to discuss a local referendum, alternative conservation plans for the area and new ideas of what’s best for environment and community,” the group said in a press release.
Parks Canada has already said it won’t send a delegate because it’s gathered all of the public input it needs.
Proposed boundaries for the park are expected to be released this summer, but the area under discussion stretches roughly from Vaseux Lake south to the Canada-U.S. border and west to Keremeos.
Parks Canada has said previously it would take about 12 years to get the park established, after which operations would commence.
— Penticton Herald