Directors wants assurances agriculture rights are protected in South Okanagan park - InfoNews

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Directors wants assurances agriculture rights are protected in South Okanagan park

The Kilpoola Grasslands would be inside the proposed South Okanagan national park reserve boundary. Regional directors were updated by Parks Canada Project Manager Sarah Boyle this afternoon, Feb. 7, 2019.
Image Credit: SUBMITTED/ Parks Canada
February 08, 2019 - 4:00 PM

PENTICTON - When local politicians had to chance to get the latest on the proposed South Okanagan national park from the horse's mouth, they raised grazing rights and the loss of agricultural land as their top concerns.

Parks Canada Project Manager Sarah Boyle brought the new directos of the Okanagan Similkameen Regional District up to date with the latest information regarding the proposed national park reserve.

Boyle said discussions regarding grazing rights were ongoing, with no firm policy assembled as yet.

“There’s a high likelihood (this park) will occur, but it’s not a done deal. There’s going to be some more detailed next steps that are required,” she said.

“We’re committed to working with grazers. We’ve been told that was a deal breaker the last time with this national park, so we have to find a way to make it work for the ranching community,” she said.

Cawston Director George Bush said he wasn't sure what assurances the federal government could offer that would be acceptable.

“My experience is the federal government can’t be trusted to keep their word. One government says ‘we’ll do this,’ but 10,15 years from now another government comes along and changes that,” Bush said. “They can take away rights whenever they want.”

Bush said he favoured protection of the land, but said there were other ways of doing it.

“I’m not in favour of the provincial government giving up the rights to look after this land to the federal government,” he said.

Parks Canada is currently conducting a public engagement process. Local residents have until the end of February to offer their views and opinions of the proposal.

The national park reserve would be operated by Parks Canada in conjunction with local First Nations, which would be allowed to continue use of the land as they traditionally have.

Boyle said the first year of operation would see a projected 2,000 to 4,000 additional visitors to the South Okanagan, with modest growth in the first five years as the park is established.

Those holding forest or mineral tenures within the park boundary will be contacted by Parks Canada to discuss next steps, Boyle said. Other restricted activities in the park reserve will include recreational off-road use, hunting and trapping, firewood collection, parachute and base jumping, mushroom picking and drone use.

The proposed park boundary of a national park reserve in the South Okanagan Similkameen.
The proposed park boundary of a national park reserve in the South Okanagan Similkameen.

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