Park would be win for new gov­ern­ment

Penticton Herald - - OKANAGAN SIMILAKEEN - By AN­DREW STUCKEY —www.os­oy­oos­t­o­

OSOY­OOS — Com­plet­ing work al­ready un­der­way to de­velop a na­tional park re­serve for the South Okana­gan-Sim­ilka­meen is one of 13 easy steps Canada could take to meet its com­mit­ment to a fast-ap­proach­ing bi­o­log­i­cal di­ver­sity pact.

That’s the mes­sage con­tained within a re­port by the Cana­dian Parks and Wilder­ness So­ci­ety (CPAWS) on the state of pro­tected ar­eas in Canada.

It’s also, says a B.C. rep­re­sen­ta­tive of the wilder­ness so­ci­ety, an easy win for John Hor­gan’s New Demo­cratic gov­ern­ment.

The coun­try, CPAWS says, is lag­ging be­hind not only its com­mit­ment to pro­tect at least 17 per­cent of its land and in­land wa­ters by 2020 but also ef­forts made by other coun­tries around the world.

“In 2010, as part of a world­wide ef­fort to stem the tide of bio­di­ver­sity loss, Canada com­mit­ted un­der the United Na­tions Con­ven­tion on Bi­o­log­i­cal Di­ver­sity to pro­tect­ing at least 17 per­cent of land and in­land wa­ters by 2020 and im­prov­ing the qual­ity of their pro­tected area sys­tems to more ef­fec­tively con­serve na­ture,” CPAWS says.

The re­port iden­ti­fies places across Canada — in­clud­ing the South Okana­gan — where a con­sid­er­able amount of work has al­ready been done on pro­posed pro­tected ar­eas.

The iden­ti­fi­ca­tion of a South Okana­gan Sim­ilka­meen Na­tional Park Re­serve gives the new pro­vin­cial gov­ern­ment a rea­son to re-track B.C.’s ef­forts with the fed­eral gov­ern­ment, says a CPAWS rep­re­sen­ta­tive work­ing out of the BC.

“The park was in their of­fi­cial elec­tion plat­form,” said Jessie Corey, Ter­res­trial Con­ser­va­tion Man­ager at CPWASBC. “They ran on a prom­ise of pro­tect­ing th­ese grass­lands. It’s early days for this gov­ern­ment, but we see this as an im­me­di­ate op­por­tu­nity for them to do some­thing that crosses party lines. They’re speak­ing for all Bri­tish Columbians.”

The CPAWS re­port finds that Canada cur­rently ranks last among G7 coun­tries, with only 10.6 per­cent of its land and fresh­wa­ter pro­tected.

It also finds that Canada lags be­hind other large coun­tries, such as Brazil (29.5 per­cent pro­tec­tion), China (17.1 per­cent), and Aus­tralia (17 per­cent).

“With all Cana­dian ecosys­tems in de­clin­ing health and Canada’s list of en­dan­gered species grow­ing each year largely due to habi­tat loss, ur­gent ac­tion is needed to pro­tect much more of our land and in­land wa­ters.” CPAWS re­ports.

“Yet, de­spite our large ar­eas of wilder­ness, all of Canada’s ecosys­tems are de­clin­ing in health and the num­ber of species at risk of ex­tinc­tion con­tin­ues to grow each year.”

Pre­serv­ing grass­lands en­vi­ron­ments is es­pe­cially im­por­tant, Ms. Cor­rie said.

“In Canada,” she ex­plained “(grass­lands) are one of the least rep­re­sented eco-sys­tems in our na­tional park sys­tem and they’re one of the least rep­re­sented in the pro­vin­cial park sys­tem.”

The na­tional park CPAWS has in mind for the South Okana­gan con­sists of a larger con­nected space and with fewer land uses than that cham­pi­oned by the for­mer Lib­eral gov­ern­ment.

Such a park is still sev­eral years out but is on CPAWS fast­tr­rack list be­cause of foun­da­tional work al­ready com­pleted.

“We’ve got this very ba­sic agree­ment on the need for a na­tional park for th­ese lands,” Ms. Corey said. “That’s what’s pro­vid­ing this good spring­board for mov­ing for­ward. We can get into dis­cus­sions of what this looks like.”

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