How a national park reserve in South Okanagan provides extra protection for endangered species - InfoNews

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How a national park reserve in South Okanagan provides extra protection for endangered species

A national park reserve in the South Okanagan-Simikameen is expected to provide an additional layer of protection for the area's endangered species, including the desert night snake pictured in the screenshot from YouTube.
Image Credit: YOUTUBE
July 05, 2019 - 4:33 PM

PENTICTON - Parks Canada’s announcement earlier this week of a memorandum of understanding between the federal, provincial and First Nation governments to work towards the establishment of a national park reserve in the South Okanagan and Similkameen may have significant positive impacts for the area’s species at risk.

Calling the area an 'ecological treasure,' Parks Canada says inside the proposed boundaries for the national park reserve are 11 per cent of Canada’s species at risk including the American badger, flammulated owls, yellow-breasted chats and desert night snakes.

There are 200 species of birds, 14 species of bats, 700 species of wildflowers and 200 species of grasses within the 273 square kilometres, Parks Canada says, and of those there are at least 30 federally listed species at risk and 60 provincially listed species that will benefit from the protection offered by the national park reserve.

Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society's terrestrial conservation manager Jesse Corey says in an email a current shortfall in the protection of endangered species is due to the fact the province of B.C. doesn’t have its own endangered species law.

Protections for species on non-federal lands in the province are stitched together under a number of different pieces of legislation.

The federal Species at Risk Act applies to all federal lands, which would include the national park reserve, once designated, and would provide a much stronger legal framework for species protection and recovery.

Corey says the Parks Canada Conservation and Restoration program is designed to focus on the recovery of species at risk.

“They are in a unique position to plan and manage for species recovery, without having to navigate jurisdictional complexities around overlapping land use as you would encounter on provincial lands which can be tenured or licensed for a number of different activities,” he said. The program would support efforts of other recovery initiatives already underway in the Okanagan.

Corey says the national parks reserve designation would also provide additional capacity for on the ground monitoring and enforcement of activities that might be impacting the success of endangered species recovery.

“The provincial protected areas here do not have this same staff capacity - there are only two park rangers who oversee the provincial protected areas currently within the proposed national park area, and both are seasonally employed,” Corey writes.

"A national park reserve would also act as a wildlife refuge. Since hunting isn’t allowed, wildlife populations would be given some breathing room, possibly creating opportunities to augment wildlife populations, which would work to make hunting outside these areas more sustainable in the long term."

The proposed boundary of the South Okanagan-Similkameen national park reserve encompasses 273 square kilometres.
The proposed boundary of the South Okanagan-Similkameen national park reserve encompasses 273 square kilometres.
Image Credit: SUBMITTED

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