The BCWF feels betrayed by the joint Federal-Provincial announcement that a National Park is going to be established in the south Okanagan despite considerable public objection. After 15 years of rancour and debate the two levels of government and First Nations are claiming that it is in the best interests of the public that a National Park be established to protect the habitats of a wide variety of flora and fauna that are unique, rare and or endangered. BCWF President Harvey Andusak states “ Everyone can agree that protection of this area that supports a wide diversity of plants and animals that are either endangered or rare is required. The reality is that over the last decade conservation organizations such as Nature Trust, BC Conservation Foundation, Habitat Conservation Trust Foundation and Nature Conservancy of Canada has spent millions purchasing private lands within the proposed Park. This is a testament to the value of the area and what the land supports with much of the funds coming from hunters and fishers. Yet these same organizations including the BCWF have not even been consulted on what Parks Canada intends to do with these properties nor what uses would be permitted, if any. “It is disingenuous for Parks Canada and BC Parks to state that public will be further consulted in a so-called re-start consultation process. The decision for a park has been made and it is left to some poor bureaucrats to now explain that a decision hasn’t really been made yet all indications are that it has been made.
The BCWF questions the need for Parks Canada to be involved and why a provincial park is not an acceptable alternative if that is what the public desires. It appears the provincial government is willing to sell out the provinces’ rightful role of managing and maintaining our natural resources. Conservation is being by-passed to a poor land manager. Andrusak stated—“at least in a provincial park the public can hunt, fish and enjoy outdoor recreation in a sustainable manner. Park’s Canada has a dismal record of wildlife management, ecosystem management and biodiversity protection. In Banff National Park extirpation of caribou has occurred with those in Jasper Park in decline. Do we really need the near zoo like conditions in Banff and Jasper Parks where habituated elk and grizzly bears are a constant threat to the public primarily due to Parks Canada outdated policy of no hunting and no natural fires? Do we need biking and hiking trails into the South Okanagan area and potentially privatization of our public resource that is so endangered and fragile? Do we want a Parks organization managed from Ottawa to look after our heritage?”
The BCWF would like to know that in the face of poor resource management in Banff and Jasper what Parks Canada core values are. It is the intention of Parks Canada to duplicate their poor record and develop South Okanagan as another tourist trap supported by commercialization and privatization? Or does Parks Canada consider the area as a refuge for the rare and endangered flora and fauna and not allow any development? These are the questions that need some answers and until the BCWF receives them it remains steadfastly opposed to formation of a National Park Reserve.