Survey keeps national park reserve in spotlight Stock associations ready to support ranchers as one-on-one discussions approach


OSOYOOS – Parks Canada has quietly launched a survey seeking further input regarding the creation of a national park reserve in the Southern Interior that would protect thousands of acres of grassland and wilderness – and change the way of life for ranchers. “This is the official feedback component of the public consultation on the proposed national park reserve in the South Okanagan- Similkameen,” explains the introduction to the 15-minute online survey launched December 10 (see []). “During this public consultation process, Parks Canada will consider the views emphasized in past consultations and consider new questions.” The consultation closes

February 28, and Linda Allison of the Southern Interior Stockmen’s Association says ranchers need to participate – and continue to engage with the process, which has been ongoing for years. A previous consultation by the province in 2015 garnered 3,460 responses, and acknowledged the importance of hunting, fishing, tourism, ranching and recreation in the area. “It is important to keep it in

front of those who will be directly impacted,” Allison says. “It is critical that ranchers

speak up as there will be a direct impact to our industry here in southern BC.” Three protected areas

comprising 84,140 acres of grasslands in the South Okanagan west of Okanagan Falls and south to the US border between Oliver and Cawston are at the heart of the proposal.

A national park reserve is a

step below a national park, and aims to respect Indigenous land rights in the area. Ranchers and conservation groups both say that their own property rights and activities will be impacted by the move, and oppose the proposal. Parks Canada officials said last fall that they hope to finalize a concept for the national park reserve, including boundaries, this year. The survey solicits “suggestions, comments, or questions for consideration regarding the proposed working boundary” of the proposed reserve, as well as insights regarding people’s use of the area. Ranching and grazing are among the listed activities. Ranchers have been told that an agreement between Parks Canada and the province will allow grazing in the proposed reserve, something not allowed in a full-fledged national park save as a management tool. However, it requires an amendment to the relevant


White Lake is part of the proposed national park reserve. FILE PHOTO

legislation. Allison is working to make

sure Parks Canada knows what rancher’s concerns are. “We toured Parks Canada

staff around the area [but] I think there is a lack of understanding of cattle grazing on Crown land in BC,” she says. Cattle have become part of the local ecosystem, and ranches provide a managed habitat for many wild species. While some have suggested grazing could be

accommodated on a limited basis, compensating ranchers for any loss of long-held grazing rights is a key question.

“My concern is that grazing

in this area will never be the same as it is now,” says Allison. “How is the province going to compensate a rancher who has had a grazing license for a certain number of AUMs in that area for decades, for any loss?”

Allison wants ranchers kept

abreast of proposals for the area. While she’s seen no firm proposals, she understands that face-to-face meetings are starting with stakeholders, and some ranchers have been receiving letters. However, she wants everyone to be on the same page. “We have asked that the first meeting with ranchers be

with all impacted at the same time,” she says. “I think it is important that everyone directly impacted hears the same story at the beginning.” This will provide a common

starting point for the one-on- one discussions Parks Canada will have with affected landowners and tenure holders afterwards. Allison says the stockmen’s associations are keen to provide any support necessary. “It is our hope that we are

kept abreast of what is being offered to ranchers so that we can support them in any way they may need our help,” she says.


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