Park would be win for new government
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.”