British Columbia

Debate on South Okanagan national park remains hot

Opposition remains for a proposed national park in the South Okanagan-Similkameen region — a plan that has been subject of debate for over a decade

Cattle ranchers says livelihood threatened while First Nations and environmental groups in support

First Nations and environmentalists are in favour of a proposed national park in the South Okanagan-Similkameen region, but some ranchers are against it. (South Okanagan Similkameen National Park Network/Facebook)

An association of cattle ranchers in B.C.'s southern interior say that a proposed national park in the South Okanagan-Similkameen region will cripple their livelihood.

"It will change our landscape, it will put ranchers out of business, and it will have a negative impact on the economy of the area," said Dave Casorso with the Southern Interior Stockmen's Association.

B.C.'s Ministry of Environment is accepting public comments on the proposed park until Oct. 31. (BC Government)

Casorso's comments come as public comments on the provincial government's Intentions Paper regarding the proposed national park close October 31.

Casorso, who owns a ranch north of Oliver, said the ranchers need the land for their cattle to graze on, adding that the cattle graze from May to October, and the grasslands grow back every year.

He said there is no other place in the region where the ranchers could go.

"We depend on affordable grassland from crown lands to maintain these cattle throughout the summer," he said.

Not all opposed

The proposed park has gone through various iterations and has been hotly discussed for over a decade now.

Signs protesting a proposed national park line the highway in the South Okanagan-Similkameen in 2012. (CBC)

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

Yet the proposed park has received significant support from local First Nations groups and environmentalists.

The South Okanagan Similkameen National Park Network has long called for national park status for the region in order to protect what it calls one of Canada's most endangered ecosystems.

Doreen Olson, coordinator of the network, told Radio West in August they were pleased that the Ministry of Environment is inviting public feedback on the proposed park.

"It's a step toward our vision of protection. We're very excited about it," Olson said.

The proposed park would need Parks Canada's stamp of approval before becoming a reality.

To hear the full interview listen to the audio labelled: Southern interior cattle ranchers oppose proposed national park


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