OSOYOOS, BRITISH COLUMBIA – With rolling hills and sweeping valleys, the South Okanagan offers a stunning landscape ranging from near-desert to rich forests of ponderosa pine and Douglas fir that support an incredible range of rare animals and plants. The South Okanagan is one of Canada’s most unique habitats and has sustained Syilx/Okanagan communities for thousands of years.
Today, three Southern Communities of the Syilx/Okanagan Nation, alongside the Governments of Canada and British Columbia, announced a renewed commitment to work together to establish a new national park reserve in the South Okanagan. The Minister of Environment and Climate Change and Minister responsible for Parks Canada, Catherine McKenna, B.C. Minister of Environment and Climate Change Strategy, George Heyman, and Chief Clarence Louie, representing the three Southern Communities of the Syilx/Okanagan Nation, made the announcement at the Nk’Mip Desert Cultural Centre in Osoyoos.
Three Southern Communities of the Syilx/Okanagan Nation, Parks Canada, and British Columbia’s Ministry of Environment and Climate Change Strategy are resuming discussions to protect lands as a national park reserve in the South Okanagan. Planning discussions through this joint partnership will commence immediately.
“A new national park reserve in the South Okanagan would protect one of Canada’s iconic natural and cultural landscapes and provide opportunities to share this inspiring place with Canadians and visitors from around the world,” said Minister of Environment and Climate Change and Minister responsible for Parks Canada, Catherine McKenna. “By renewing our commitment to work together to establish a national park reserve in the South Okanagan, we can conserve this incredible landscape for future generations. In so doing, we also honour and recognize the important role of Indigenous People of the region and their traditional use of these lands.”
As climate change continues, it is important to take protective measures to safeguard the significant and diverse regions of our country, such as the B.C. interior. The South Okanagan region represents an area of significant ecological, geographic, and cultural importance and offers a wide range of recreation and tourism opportunities. The Okanagan is one of the most ecologically-diverse regions of Canada, and protecting this area would support recovery of over 60 federally listed species-at-risk.
“We know the South Okanagan is a unique place that many British Columbians want to see protected as a national park reserve. We will work hard to make this happen, to preserve and protect the biodiversity of this special region, and for the positive contributions a national park reserve will make to the local economies,” said Minister of Environment and Climate Change Strategy, George Heyman.
The establishment of a national park reserve in the South Okanagan represents a valuable opportunity to advance reconciliation and for nation-to-nation engagement with the three Southern Communities of the Syilx/Okanagan Nation leading to a new partnership model for management of the proposed national park reserve. These discussions will also take into consideration the continuation of ranching and recreational activities in the region.
“The collaborative work to develop national park reserve in the South Okanagan started decades ago. In 2002, I along with Senator Ross Fitzpatrick and others went to Ottawa to meet with the Prime Minister’s staff to explore the possibility of a national park in the South Okanagan. More recently, in 2011 the Osoyoos Indian Band and Lower Similkameen Indian Band took the lead on behalf of the Okanagan Nation to develop a Syilx Feasibility Study to allow for the inclusion of the Okanagan Nation perspectives. The funding provided to these two Bands resulted in the formation of the Syilx Parks Working Group, which completed its final report on December 18, 2012. Now, five years later we look forward to re-establishing the same process and implementing the recommendations of the Syilx Parks Working Group in light of the new advancements that have been made toward a new relationship based on recognition of rights, respect, cooperation, and partnership, which promotes a lasting reconciliation,” said Chief Clarence Louie of the Osoyoos Indian Band.
The Syilx/Okanagan people have a responsibility to take care of their lands, waters, plants and animals and have always done so through protocols of respect and reciprocity.
The Government of Canada is committed to expanding its network of protected areas and protecting Canada’s biodiversity by conserving at least 17 per cent of our country’s land and freshwater by 2020 in collaboration with the provinces and territories, Indigenous Peoples, and other key partners.
The Ministry of Environment and Climate Change Strategy has also committed to developing endangered species legislation to better protect British Columbia’s species-at-risk.
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Ministry of Environment and Climate Change Strategy
Parks Canada Agency
Chief Clarence Louie
Osoyoos Indian Band
Chief Keith Crow
Lower Similkameen Indian Band
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