National park reserve in the South Okanagan-Similkameen moves forward
“For generations, people have lived, ranched, worked, and hiked, biked, and camped in the South Okanagan and Similkameen Valley – and Indigenous Peoples have lived on this land and stewarded it since time immemorial. I want to extend special thanks to the Lower Similkameen Indian Band and the Osoyoos Indian Band, the Government of British Columbia, and the community as we move toward establishing this national park reserve together. The region is an ecological wonder, a haven for wildlife and species at risk, and a natural legacy we can preserve for our kids and grandkids, so they too can experience the joy of spending time in nature.”
The Honourable Catherine McKenna,
Minister of Environment and Climate Change and Minister responsible for Parks Canada
“Our parks bring families and communities together. Our parks are also critically important for protecting species and ecosystems found nowhere else in the world. The Memorandum of Understanding marks an important step forward towards the long-term protection of the very unique biodiversity values in the South Okanagan-Similkameen, found nowhere else in Canada. It also highlights the strong partnerships built between the federal and the Syilx/Okanagan Nation, which provide a valuable opportunity to advance reconciliation with Indigenous peoples.”
The Honourable George Heyman,
B.C. Minister of Environment and Climate Change Strategy
“I want to say lim limt (thank you) to the negotiating team, comprised of representatives from the Osoyoos Indian Band, the Lower Similkameen Indian Band, and the Provincial and Federal Governments, who had many meetings and spent hundreds of hours developing an innovative Memorandum of Understanding that sets the framework for future negotiations on a proposed South Okanagan-Similkameen National Park Reserve. The work by the team stands up our language and our laws to uphold, protect and advance the Aboriginal Title and Rights of the sməlqmix (Similkameen) and suknaʔkinx (Okanagan) people.”
Chief Clarence Louie,
Osoyoos Indian Band
“The Smelqmix people have always protected this land. We view this process as a way to work with our partners to implement culturally informed management practices. We look forward to working closely with all our neighbours.”
Chief Keith Crow,
Lower Similkameen Indian Band
"It is fortuitous that as Canada contemplates the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP) and Bill C-262, that we collectively in the Okanagan have created a vital and demonstrable realization of the potential of the UNDRIP and true reconciliation. The Okanagan Nation is buoyed by the commitments of the Province in this Memorandum of Understanding to take seriously the implementation of the UNDRIP, in particular article 29 and the recognition of Okanagan conservation priorities."
Grand Chief Stewart Phillip,
Okanagan Nation Alliance
In October 2017, the Governments of Canada and British Columbia and the syilx/Okanagan Nation announced a renewed relationship to explore the establishment of a new national park reserve in the South Okanagan-Similkameen. The proposed national park reserve will contribute to a network of protected and conserved areas while helping to advance reconciliation with Indigenous peoples.
Parks Canada undertook broad and extensive consultations with local residents, stakeholders and Canadians to hear their views on the proposed boundary for the proposed national park reserve in the South Okanagan-Similkameen, and key aspects for consideration in its management. During the public consultations, Parks Canada met with 39 stakeholder groups representing a variety of interests and received feedback from almost 3,000 respondents.
As a next step, the Parties will initiate negotiations of an establishment agreement for the national park reserve, which may include land transfer agreements between the Governments of Canada and British Columbia and the syilx/Okanagan Nation.
The South Okanagan-Similkameen represents an area of significant ecological, geographic, and cultural importance with a wide range of recreation and tourism opportunities like hiking, camping, bird watching, and mountain biking.
The South Okanagan-Similkameen is one of the most ecologically diverse regions of Canada. There are than 200 species of birds in the valley, 14 species of bats, more than 700 species of wildflowers and 200 species of grasses.
Enhancing the protection of this area would support the recovery of more than 30 federally listed species at risk, and over 60 provincially listed species, including American badgers, flammulated owls, yellow-breasted chats, desert night snakes, and western rattlesnakes.
Protecting nature is an important part of Canada’s climate plan. Nature-based solutions can provide up to over 30% of global climate solutions. By protecting nature, we protect important carbon sinks and ensure naturally-stored carbon stays in the ground.
In May 2019, the United Nations published its report: Nature’s Dangerous Decline ‘Unprecedented’; Species Extinction Rates ‘Accelerating.’ This report estimates that close to 1 million species are at risk of extinction and makes it clear that governments must take action to protect nature if we are to preserve biodiversity.
Office of the Minister of Environment and Climate Change
Parks Canada Agency
B.C. Ministry of Environment and Climate Change Strategy
Chief Clarence Louie
Osoyoos Indian Band
Chief Keith Crow
Lower Similkameen Indian Band
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