Progress on the proposed national park between the Similkameen and South Okanagan is slowly being made, according to an update from Parks Canada.
Work on the park was hit by delays in 2020 due to the pandemic and in 2021 due to wildfires and floods that year. Since then, in-person meetings and negotiations between Parks Canada, the provincial government and the bands of the syilx Okanagan Nation have resumed.
In their latest update to the public, Parks Canada promised that if approved by the three parties involved, the park would provide long-term opportunities for sustainable tourism and local jobs in the area, advance reconciliation and preserve the opportunities to continue Indigenous cultural practices, and would also maintain grazing.
One of the aspects that is currently being looked at are the numbers of species at risk that would be within the currently proposed boundary of the park.
Many areas within the working boundary have not been surveyed, which means that the number of species at risk may be higher than currently known.
So far, there are 17 provincially-listed species at risk in the region and 92 federally recognized species at risk, as well 36 ecological communities that are considered at risk.
Other species are also present in the area that have ecological, cultural and/or economic value, and part of the work that is being done on the park is bringing in syilx Okanagan traditional ecological knowledge about the species.
Official consultations with Parks Canada began in 2018 with local residents and stakeholders over the proposed park and its boundaries, which covers around 270 square kilometres or 27,300 hectares of land around the Mount Kobau, Spotted Lake and Kilpoola areas.
The proposed park would also incorporate land that is currently in the BC Parks’ South Okanagan Grasslands Protected Area.
The three parties involved signed a Memorandum of Understanding to negotiate toward a future park in 2019.
Even once or if negotiations are completed between the three parties, there will still need to be an establishment agreement signed followed by further planning and consultation for the management and establishment of the park.
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