Documents reveal what public says about national park

Thousands of people, including hundreds from the South Okanagan, gave their views on a proposed national park reserve last fall in response to the provincial government’s Intentions Paper.

That feedback is contained in about 5,000 pages of documents obtained by the Wilderness Committee under Freedom of Information and publicly released last week.

Some themes kept recurring in the hundreds of online submissions we looked at from both park supporters and opponents.

The following is a representative sample of comments on several key themes. They have been edited for brevity, spelling and grammar.

Opponents: Local residents will be excluded:

“I am not willing to give up my children’s, grandchildren’s or my recreation activities in Area 2… The national park may increase tourism, but eventually at the cost of us being able to feed ourselves. We will end up with a bunch of drunk and hungry tourists!”

“All it does is restrict us from that area from doing the things that we have always done including hunting, fishing and sightseeing without interference from park rules!”

“Creating a new park is a land grab. The people living here want to keep the right to enjoy their outdoors activities freely. When a park is created, an entrance fee is charged, new rules apply and the local people cannot use the land anymore.”

Supporters: Area 2, Mount Kobau and other areas should be included in a national park reserve:

“Mount Kobau is a spectacular site that should be in a national park proposal. There is an existing road to the top, so it has the infrastructure to be a top attraction. With amazing spring wild flowers and stunning views, this could be the jewel in the crown of the park.”

“Without Area 2, because of its location, the towns of Oliver and Cawston will not have gateways to the national park, and these communities will not be sharing in any of the anticipated economic benefits.”

“A provincial conservancy offers a lower level of protection. The province spends no money on either protection or restoration or tourist infrastructure.”

“As opposed to the long-term management oversight associated with a national park reserve, future provincial governments could make decisions based on their temporary political goals.”

“National parks are better funded than the money-starved provincial protected areas, and we can expect that the national park will provide better trails, leading to better access, more tourist interest, and greater economic benefit to surrounding communities.”

“The historical and cultural significance of the Fairview town site should be acknowledged and supported as an entry point and/or visitor centre, with space to accommodate school activities.”

“In my opinion, it is essential that the area east of Vaseux Lake, where there is an important population of bighorn sheep, be included in the national park.”

“Some of the Osoyoos West Bench is being devastated by unlawful ORV (off-road vehicle) use. These lands should be included in the park.”

Opponents: National park reserve would give First Nations too much control:

“No Aboriginal control on any area.”

“The ridiculous allowance that hunting is their right anytime any place will be the extinction of our wildlife.”

“Why is everything about First Nations – especially tourism and recreation development of the area? Why is the development not open to all types of tourism for any and everyone?”

“This area does not need more Native overseers, that will restrict my rights as a Born Canadian.”

“Any assertion by any special interest groups that there is any significant cultural heritage value in this area is absurd. Aboriginals already have unfettered access to hunt and travel in the area with off road vehicles at any time.”

“The provincial ministries need to see the position of First Nations for what it is: as an exclusive and selfish quest for land.”

Supporters: First Nations role is important:

“It is important that First Nations have input on this proposal because places like Spotted Lake are of significant cultural values to them.”

“The establishment of a NPR (national park reserve) is an opportunity for a level of protection of Syilx environmental ethics and cultural values and a Syilx role in management and decision-making that cannot be achieved through the province’s current patchwork approach to protecting environmentally and culturally sensitive areas.”

Opponents: Keep the federal government out:

“This area turned into a national park will remove the entire area from my personal access. I never go to national parks… I feel more comfortable going to a foreign country than to one of our National Parks.”

“I will never use it if it is created.”

“Allocating this land to federal control represents theft from the residents of B.C.”

“No, we do not want a National Park. Turn the area into a B.C. Park so we can still access it.”

Opponents: Park supporters are outsiders, special interests and city people:

“If people in the big cities want a park let them make one in their area, not ours.”

“This national park idea does not even deserve consideration. Almost all of the proponents are from other areas.”

“The idea that this land should be protected from the local residents and more of it given to the protection of the First Nations or some other organization is VERY upsetting to those of us who have lived here all our lives.”

Supporters: Park opponents aren’t representative of local opinion:

“I was born and raised in Oliver and know how fragile these lands are. I also know many of the local vocal minority citizens who oppose the park. They are certainly allowed to voice their opinions but I believe they are not thinking strategically nor long term.”

“A very small group of people, mostly a few hunters and cattle owners, frightened many of us in Oliver into being quiet at first because they were so vociferous in expressing their opinions. It has raised my spirits to see that eventually the voices of the majority of people who DO support a National Park were heard and responded to.”

Supporters: Endangered species and habitat need protection:

“All three areas under consideration are the habitat of many species that are barely surviving now because of the fragile environment in which they live.”

“Every effort should be made to highlight low impact access with wardens, guides, educators and scientists all working in conjunction to achieve the balance between protection and public engagement/enjoyment.”

“Area 2 boundary is close to my neighbourhood. I feel very strongly that we need to keep some of the natural wilderness intact for future generations to enjoy and for the benefit of the wild animals and birds.”

Opponents: Existing protection is sufficient or protection isn’t necessary:

“All your comments about Aboriginal needs and endangered species and recreational needs can all be handled under the Land Resource Management Plans.”

“There are so many heritage reserves around we don’t need more.”

“The Sonoran Desert extends from Mexico to the South Okanagan and as such the environmental area which is claimed to be at risk in Canada appears to be at no risk in northern Washington state.”

“Having hunted and fished in the proposed areas I can assure you that there is nothing up there that requires protection.”

RICHARD McGUIRE

Osoyoos Times

Read the documents for yourself:

(Note: The documents were released by the government in non-searchable form. We have used optical character recognition to make them searchable where possible.)

Part 1 – Ministry of Environment officials discuss handling of media inquiries

Part 2 – Ministry of Environment officials discuss handling of media inquiries

Part 3 – Outgoing letters from Ministry of Environment

Part 4 – Outgoing letters from Ministry of Environment

Part 5 – Outgoing letters from Ministry of Environment

Part 6 – Online submissions

Part 7 – Online submissions, briefs from organizations, emails and letters

Part 8 – Online submissions through Wilderness Committee

Part 9 – Online submissions through Wilderness Committee

Part 10 – Online submissions through Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society

Part 11 – Online submissions through Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society

Part 12 – Online submissions through Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society, letters and emails via Minister Polak and MLA Larson, online submissions through Wilderness Committee

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