The Okanagan Nations Alliance released the results of their $400,000 national park feasibility study on Tuesday, February 26.
Local media were noticeably absent from the conference announcing the release. Many local news outlets were not informed of the event until several hours later. The Review heard first heard of it after South Okanagan Similkameen National Park Network Coordinator Doreen Olsen telephoned the Review office on Tuesday afternoon. Press releases from the Wilderness Committee, the Canadian Parks and Wilderness Committee and Olsen’s organization were emailed later Tuesday afternoon.
The First Nations feasibility study endorsed the national park proposal, calling on the Province of B.C. to reverse their decision to withdraw from the process last year.
The Okanagan Nation Alliance issued a press release in which they deemed the South Okanagan Similkameen National Park as feasible, urging governments to move forward to the next step of park establishment.
“The report, ‘Building a Syilx Vision for Protection’, was developed by the Syilx Parks Working Group, and came from our people upholding their responsibility to protect the land from encroachment by people who have a different view of utilizing the land and resources. Parks Canada has been more receptive to how the park will be operated. There is now a growing relationship, and greater trust and respect,” stated Chief Edward of the Lower Similkameen Indian Band.
The press release went on to add that other matters yet to be addressed include the current park plan, which the study concluded is insufficient in size to promote the Syilx vision for protection of Syilx cultural and ecological integrity in the South Okanagan. Another outstanding issue is the role of the Province of British Columbia. B.C. Environment Minister Terry Lake told media Tuesday that his government would need time to review the document before making a decision.
Funding for the study was sourced from Parks Canada in agreements with the Lower Similkameen and Osoyoos Indian Bands. The agreements were originally due for completion in June of 2012, but the date was subsequently pushed back to December 2012.
The release of the conclusions on February 26 come within a few weeks of an upcoming provincial election campaign.