British Columbia

South Okanagan national park opponents want economic opportunity on land

The Grasslands Park Review Coalition wants land proposed for a national park protected, but the group says a national park alone would be too "blunt" and take away opportunities to work the land.

Group calls for land to be protected, but wants flexibility for ranchers, recreational users, others

This photo from the B.C. Ministry of Environment shows the type of landscape that could be part of a future national park. Some are opposed to the idea because it would restrict activities like ranching. (B.C. Ministry of Environment)

The province announced Friday a national park in the South Okanagan is a step closer to reality, but some people don't see the announcement as a step forward.

Greg Norton is an orchardist and member of the Grasslands Park Review Coalition and says people who have worked the land have protected it as well for for over a century.

He said a national park would take away economic opportunities from them which is "contrary … to the Canadian way."

"We've said for 15 years [a national park] is just not the right tool to protect the area," he told Radio West host Audrey McKinnon.

"Our key components have always been increased risk of catastrophic wildfire, negative effects on businesses like the cattle ranching industry and the helicopter training school as well as the loss of historic recreational uses. Those have pretty big impacts on our community."

Norton says his group wants to protect the land, but wants flexibility to use it for economic purposes too. He says provincial protections would be more appropriate.

"There are numerous tools that are less blunt. I think that's where the problem is," he said. "A national park basically excludes the vast majority of people that use those areas now."

Norton says he is looking forward to the government's public input process for the lands.

With files from CBC Radio One's Radio West

A map from the provincial Ministry of Environment shows the proposed areas where a national park reserve might live one day. Areas 1 and 3 (southern and northernmost, respectively, in yellow) are proposed for the reserve, while Area 2 (middle, in red) is proposed for provincial protection. The green areas are existing protected areas. (B.C. Ministry of Environment)

To hear the full interview, click the audio labelled: South Okanagan national park opponents want economic opportunity on land