OSOYOOS - Provincial planning discussions to set aside South Okanagan lands for a national park reserve and preserve other areas under provincial legislation are moving forward with participation of local Indian bands.
The province announced at a media conference in Osoyoos this morning, Jan. 27, three distinct areas in the region will be addressed, following a public engagement process that took place following an intentions paper issued in August, 2015.
The three areas under consideration include:
Area one, which includes portions of the area west of Osoyoos towards the Similkameen River, south of Highway 3 to the U.S. border and portions of the South Okanagan Grasslands Protected Area.
Area two, which includes portions of the area west of Oliver towards Cawston and north of Highway 3 to the southern extent of the White Lake Grasslands Protected Area.
Area three, which includes portions of the White Lake Basin south of Okanagan Falls, including areas around Vaseux Lake.
Under the plan, area two would be protected as a conservancy under the provincial park act, while Areas one and three could make up a South Okanagan National Park Reserve, following further discussions with the province, the Lower Similkameen, Osoyoos and Penticton Indian Bands, and Parks Canada.
Should the option of a national park reserve not be feasible, the province is prepared to discuss options with the Okanagan Nation communities for further protection under the Park Act.
Further discussion is expected to continue to develop plan details and seek federal government engagement. Other factors still to be considered include First Nation values and cultural sites, protections of species at risk, recreational users and protection of ranching and grazing tenures.
Today's provincial announcement elicited a response from federal Minister of Environment and Climate Change and Minister responsible for Parks Canada Catherine McKenna, who said in a media release she "looked forward to discussing the potential for a new national park reserve in the South Okanagan with the Province of British Columbia and Okangan Nation communities."
The statement also noted the federal government had no involvement in discusssions leading up to the creation of the province's three protected areas in the South Okanagan, nor was it involved in the public review.
"The Agency looks forward to future discussions," the statement concluded.
— This story was updated at 2:45 p.m., Friday, Jan. 27, 2017 to include comment from the federal government.
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