The Chief of the Lower Similkameen Indian Band thinks his people are being misrepresented when it comes to the formation of a National Park or any type conservancy solution in the area.
Chief Kieth Crow brought up concerns that the non-aboriginal public might have a different view of where the band stands during a Similkameen Valley Planning Society meeting last week.
“I received an email about the intentions paper just like everyone else. There were no discussions prior to it coming out between the Ministry and us,” Crow told the Review following the SVPS meeting.
Crow said at this time LSIB members are considering the intentions paper and the band has no formal statement regarding what has been proposed.
“My personal opinion as myself is we need to stop development from coming up the hills. We need to protect the land,” he said. “But as a group we haven’t met yet to form our official stance. We’re working on this now.”
The province reopened the National Park debate by releasing its intentions paper Aug. 13.
The province is proposing a large area, west of Osoyoos and south of Highway 3 to the U.S., be considered by Parks Canada for inclusion in a South Okanagan National Park Reserve.
Likewise, part of the White Lake basin and extending down past Willowbrook, west of Hwy. 97, is also being put forward for national park status.
Between them, the two cover several protected areas, including the White Lake Grasslands, Spotted Lake, the Osoyoos Desert Centre and the South Okanagan Grasslands Protected Area sites of East and West Chopaka.
A third area, covering west of Oliver towards Cawston, and north of Highway 3 to the southern border of the White Lake Grasslands, is being recommended as a conservancy under the B.C. Park Act.
Although he had no official comments about the new boundaries being suggested, Crow did say the band would not approve giving up any of its rights and titles with regards to their land.
Crow said in the last several weeks he’s had a meeting with the Minister of Environment and plans are to hold another in the coming weeks.
The Review requested an interview with someone from the Ministry but was denied instead receiving emailed answers to several questions.
The Ministry of Environment stated the proposed boundaries in the Intentions Paper are not intended to reflect precise boundaries but are conceptual and intended to garner feedback on three broad areas as outlined in the paper.
“It also needs to be clarified that the Intentions Paper does not indicate that the Lower Similkameen Indian Band, or any other First Nation, has agree to put their lands into a provincial or national park,” the email stated, adding in a separate point,
“The Ministry of Environment has been undertaking interest-based conversations with member nations of the Okanagan Nation Alliance to better understand their interests in this area.”
At this point the province has not consulted with Parks Canada about the new boundaries being proposed for a National Park but has stated they are collecting public input and looking at a new framework for a national park in the South Okanagan.
The email from the Ministry of Environment states its too early in the process to have a budget or even a plan for any public meetings on the proposal.
A 60-day comment period is coming to a close Oct. 31. The comment period was extended from the original date of Oct. 12.
BC Parks will review the feedback and publicly post a Consultation Report along with final recommendations in early 2016.
To leave a comment visit www.env.gov.bc.ca/bcparks/planning/protected-areas-framework-s-okanagan.html.