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An open letter to Premier Christy Clark regarding a National Park in the Okanagan Valley

January 17, 2012

British Columbia Minister of the Environment Terry Lake recently announced that the British Columbia government would be withdrawing its support of the proposed National Park for the south Okanagan and Similkameen Valleys.  Up until now, the BC government has backed the park idea, and 8 years of hard negotiations had brought everyone onside save for a small group of hunters and all-terrain-vehicle enthusiasts.  The legitimate concerns of ranchers and First Nations communities were being dealt with successfully through complex consultations and were either resolved or close to being resolved. It is therefore apparent that immediate action is needed to get this important initiative back on track.  I have just sent this letter to Christy Clark, the Premier of British Columbia.  Feel free to adapt it as you wish and send in your own version.  Addresses to use are:

Premier Christy Clark:

Minister of Environment Terry Lake:

Even better, mail a printed copy through the post to these people at their Victoria postal address:

Parliament Buildings
Victoria, BC
V8V 1X4

Here is my letter:

Dear Premier Clark:

I was both surprised and disappointed to hear of your government’s decision to shelve the plans to create a National Park in the South Okanagan.  The reasons for my surprise are as follows:

— The local people want this park.  The only scientific poll carried out to date indicates about two-thirds of the people in the south Okanagan and Similkameen are in favour of the park, while only a quarter oppose it. In my personal experience, many opponents to the park plan are very misinformed about the size, placement and management of the proposed park, and are actually objecting to situations that were rectified through consultation years ago.

–Local businesses want this park.  Hotel, motels, restaurants and other tourism-based businesses would benefit directly from the extended visitor stays the park would promote.  Wineries and other related businesses would similarly benefit.  The Thompson-Okanagan Tourism Association has incorporated the park concept into their 5-year plan and obviously hoping it becomes a reality.

–The park would provide about 500 permanent jobs, a badly needed boost to the local economy.  These would be “clean” jobs generated by a project that the public wants.

–Eight years of negotiations have answered objections initially raised by the ranching industry, and my sources tell me that the vast majority of local ranchers now support the park concept.  Similarly, negotiations with local First Nations are in advanced stages, ironing out how co-management would work in the Park.

–Park opponents seem to be dominated by local hunters and all-terrain vehicle users.  These groups have the entire valley to play in, and will only suffer minor inconvenience if the Park goes ahead in its present form, a form much reduced in size from previous plans.  In contrast, supporters of the park proposal will be denied the considerable benefits that the park will provide if the plans are shelved.

My disappointment obviously stems from the fact that your government has chosen to listen to a small minority of constituents and threatens to cancel an exciting project that would be of great benefit to the social, economic and environmental well-being of British Columbia.  Please reconsider this decision.  We can’t afford to lose this opportunity and all the hard work that has gone into making this dream a reality.  In closing, I would simply like to know why you feel the desires of the few opponents outweigh the obvious benefits to this park?

Yours sincerely,

Dick Cannings

17 Comments leave one →
  1. January 17, 2012 1:12 pm

    Well done, Dick. My letter is already on its way. Thanks for the heads up.

  2. Valerie Fuller permalink
    January 17, 2012 2:24 pm

    Thanks, Dick,

    I’ll send a letter requesting the Gov’t reconsider.

    Valerie Fuller

  3. January 17, 2012 3:42 pm

    Hi Dick

    I’ll send her a book.


  4. January 17, 2012 3:43 pm

    Great initiative, I’ll send her the book “Okanagan Geology South”

  5. Michele permalink
    January 17, 2012 7:26 pm

    It is not a small minority please check your facts.

  6. Richard Swanston permalink
    January 18, 2012 6:46 pm

    Dick A lot of hunters and off road guys and girls are conserned about the environment . There is a bunch of neanderthals out there though that feel they have the right to trash the place They have no clue as to the damage they do to delicate ecosystems with their Off Roading A Federal Park is more then required in order to preserve some of this Habitat I took the liberty to copy your letter to the Premier I’m not as polite as you though and added a little bit at the end that noted it was MY comment Along with some pictures of how Hunters / Target Shooters continue to TRASH parts of my community . They show a total lack of stewardship . This comes from a Provincial Government that just opened season on Wolves in the Interior They are peddling back in time faster then a birder on the rare bird hunt Thank You for drawing this to are attention Richard Swanston

  7. Terry Tellier permalink
    January 20, 2012 3:18 pm

    Dick ~ Thank you for the information. My letters were sent yesterday to the Premier and the Minister. Terry Tellier

  8. Denise Brownlie permalink
    January 20, 2012 4:26 pm

    Letters to Christy Clark and Terry Lake soon to be mailed to Victoria ! Thanks, Dick, for making it easy for small voices such as mine to be heard. I hope there will soon be “a thundering chorus”, a rumbling sound as an avalanche of letters reaches the people in power.

    There are compelling reasons for the government to go forward with creating a National Park in the South Okanagan. To lose this opportunity would be like going back in time to support selling the timber rights to what is now Stanley Park.
    “When will they ever learn …. “.

  9. Kathy Malmberg permalink
    January 20, 2012 5:45 pm

    YES! – There is very much resistance to the park by many of the people who live in this area. And for very many good reasons which have all been told over and over.

    • January 20, 2012 6:23 pm

      Hi Kathy: I’d appreciate hearing about these reasons. Most have been dealt with over the years as the park proposal has been fine-tuned. I’ve talked to a lot of people opposed to the park, and most either seem to be concerned about issues that are misunderstood or no longer relevant (e.g. fire management, ranching/grazing concerns, helicopter training). The only issues that remain a legitimate point of debate (that I know of) are local hunting and ATV access, and I think the latter can be considered a good trade-off for such an important initiative.

  10. January 22, 2012 8:22 pm

    Thanks for the great letter, Dick! Let’s hope Mr. Lake is man enough to reverse course if he realizes he screwed up on this one!

  11. Kathy Malmberg permalink
    January 24, 2012 8:21 pm

    I would like to know more about the process to create “protected areas”.
    There is HUGE opposition to creating a Park in and around the south Okanagan and Similkameen area. I have listened to both sides for a very long time now and am in sympathy with the side AGAINST the park.
    I, personally, spend a huge amount of my time in the mountains in this area. The only time I have run into problems is with dirt bikers and hunters. The hunting, I don’t mind as long as it is well regulated and the hunters are respectful of our land.
    There has been a couple of areas here that have become off- limits to motorized vehicles of any kind, and I cannot believe the difference it makes to the land and forests. No more trash, ripped up hillsides, and illegal fires, not to mention the impaired drivers of said vehicles. (yes, even the younger ones, Mom and Dad!)
    Granted, we need to protect this area and many many others, but we do not have to go the expense of creating a National park.
    I have other objections, not the least of which I would object very highly to have to suddenly pay for the privilege of using the wilderness area as i have for most of my life.
    Everyone I travel with in the great outdoors is very respectful of our environment.
    The government needs to quit selling off the land to developers – this isn’t rocket science.
    Whatever happened to our Conservation officers? Why not bring them back – much less expensive than creating a park.

    Thanks for listening.
    Kathy Malmberg

  12. January 24, 2012 9:56 pm

    Hi Kathy; I’m not sure why the “expense” of creating a National Park is a problem; it’s an expense shared with the rest of the Canadian population, an expense like education that is necessary to preserve our heritage. And for the local population (even the BC population as a whole) it’s actually a big economic boost rather than any expense at all. The cost of not creating a park is much greater in the broad sense. And if you want to wait for the provincial government to provide adequate funding for managing parks and other Crown lands properly, you’ll be waiting far too long.

  13. EdG permalink
    January 28, 2012 3:19 pm

    “Cannings said… “But these people have been essentially afraid to speak out and have been muzzled by opponents who continue to spread the message most people in this area are against the park, which is blatantly false.””

    “After more than 40 years serving his community as a conservationist, member of the Regional District of Okanagan Similkameen and a businessman, Norton said he’s never seen such a concerted effort by interest groups in favour of this park to mislead the public.”

    Hmmm. Who to believe?

    More from that link:

    “The south Okanagan “is home to more endangered species than anywhere else in Canada” and building a national park would ensure dozens of species would be protected, said Brown.

    There’s no protection in place through legislation for these species and so few staff to manage environmental resources the problem is only going to get worse unless a park is built, he said.”

    But NONE of those species is actually endangered at all unless we pretend that political boundaries matter – which COSEWIC does for obvious self-serving reasons.

    And “dozens” of species? More gross exaggeration.

    And “no protection”? Just plain false.

    So I think I do you who to believe. So called ‘environmentalists’ have been telling whoppers for too long.

    • January 28, 2012 6:03 pm

      Ed: There are 58 species listed in the Species at Risk Act that are found in the south Okanagan. I think you can safely call that “dozens” and it makes it the biggest hotspot of SARA species in the country. Some of these (but by no means all) are at the northern limit of their range, but that is not the sole reason for their listing. We could debate here about the value of protecting species at the edge of their range, but I can assure you that COSEWIC does not list these species for “self-serving reasons”–to be honest, adding more species just gives COSEWIC more work and no more funding to do it; they do it because they think it’s important. A more important point is that National Parks are not created to protect endangered species (though they often do); they are created to ensure that Canada’s natural heritage is preserved for future generations and to allow present generations to enjoy that natural heritage. There are few if any endangered species in the Arctic, but there are plenty of National Parks there. And as for misinformation, the “No” side has consistently characterized the proposed park boundaries as much larger than they actually are and thrown out statements such as “fire management in National Parks would be a disaster”, “you can’t fish in National Parks”, “the ranching community is dead-set against the Park”, “creating a park would be too expensive”, that are simply not true.

  14. EdG permalink
    January 28, 2012 3:23 pm

    Correction. Should read “I think I do know who to believe.”

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