Nature Canada congratulates governments on new agreement for South Okanagan protection
Environment Minister Catherine McKenna was joined by B.C. Environment Minister George Heyman, Chief Clarence Louie of the Osoyoos Indian Band and Chief Keith Crow of the Lower Similkameen Indian Band for the announcement on Tuesday.
Together, they presented working boundaries and a memorandum of understanding to negotiate the creation of the new park. The park reserve will be co-managed with the Sylix/Okanagan Nation.
“This announcement is a proud moment for Canada,” said Bob Peart, board chair of Nature Canada. “Congratulations are due to all three levels of government on this achievement.”
The South Okanagan-Similkameen is a unique landscape of dry grasslands and open ponderosa pine forests in southern British Columbia. It is home to more endangered species than anywhere else in the province, including the Flammulated Owl, Great Basin Spadefoot Toad and Lyall’s Mariposa Lily.
For over 15 years, First Nations, individuals, and local groups including the South Okanagan-Similkameen National Park Network have been fighting for the protection of this area.
Today, their efforts are finally being rewarded.
“We’ve been working relentlessly towards this goal because this is truly a remarkable ecosystem. It is a special place for both the people and the endangered plants and animals who live here,” said Peart.
Negotiations will now begin to finalize the boundaries and the formal agreements required to make the area into a park reserve.
“The government will need to move with urgency to purchase private lands for the park reserve. We also look towards future negotiations to ensure more robust protection for the White Lake and Vaseux Lake federal lands,” said Peart.
Nature Canada’s recent petition to protect the South Okanagan-Similkameen received over 4,500 signatures from Canadians spanning coast to coast.
This is in addition to the 19,000 signatures collected in campaigns since 2002. In that time our organization helped mobilize Canadians alongside other conservation groups.
“Today’s success is proof of what is achieved when we stand together for nature,” said Gauri Sreenivasan, Director of Campaigns.
“Canada faces an urgent challenge to stave off species loss and extinction. The creation of new protected areas, co-governed with local First Nations, is our best bet to prevent more loss.”
When the South Okanagan-Similkameen National Park Reserve is created, it will bring Canada a step closer to the UN target of protecting 17 per cent of our lands and inland waters by 2020.
For more information contact:
613-562-3447, ext. 252
Header photo by Tim Gage. Flammulated Owl photo courtesy of Dave Menke, USFWS.