British Columbia

B.C. seeks to make controversial South Okanagan land into federal park

In a move that surprised many, the province announced it is seeking public comment to turn parts of the South Okanagan into a federal park.

Public will have until October 12 to offer feedback

The sagebrush grasslands would been part of the South Okanagan-Lower Similkameen National Park which the province is asking for public consideration over. (CBC)

The B.C. government says it wants to hear public opinion over plans to transform land west of Okanagan Falls and a piece of land west of Osoyoos into a national park. The announcement comes at a time when provincial interest in the project seemed to have cooled after more than a decade-long debate over the idea.

"It's certainly a step forward it's a step toward our vision of protection. We're very excited about it," said Doreen Olson, coordinator of the South Okanagan Similkameen National Park Network. Her organization has been asking for national park status for the region in order to protect what it calls one of Canada's most endangered ecosystems.

The province's announcement came to the surprise of many. 

"We knew there was some conversation going on, but nothing to this detail and commitment," said Olson.

In a release issued by the province, an intentions paper outlines its plans to protect land located in the South Okanagan region.

"As a result of discussions with stakeholders, community interests, and the Okanagan Nation, the provincial government has come to better understand various interests and has developed a proposed land protection framework for the South Okanagan that it hopes will address these interests both today and into the future."

A controversial plan

The proposal, which has been discussed for over a decade has seen its share of opposition. Farmers, hunters, ranchers, and ATV riders have all previously opposed the idea.

The public opposition caused Parks Canada to withdraw a similar feasibility assessment to turn the region into a national park in 2012.

The province is asking for public feedback on its intentions paper for the project and will accept comments until October 12, 2015.

To hear more, click the audio labelled: Province considers National Park for South Okanagan.

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