Hunting and grazing could be allowed in national park

Many opponents fear a park would end hunting on the land or that it would end grazing. They should reconsider.

Dear Editor,

More public presentations on the Okanagan national park proposal were scheduled last week in Princeton and Hedley.

Many opponents fear either that a park would end hunting on the land comprising it, or that it would end grazing.

They should reconsider.

Recent decisions by the federal government regarding two national park projects in eastern Canada indicate that, for better or worse, such concerns may soon be unfounded.

It’s true that the guiding principles and operational policies for national parks have long prohibited non-native hunting, except for transitional periods where locals depended on it for subsistence.

Under the National Parks Act, grazing by domesticated animals is also prohibited.The government, however, is apparently abandoning those guidelines.

In 2010, at the insistence of  Labrador hunters and of the provincial government, it signed an agreement for a new Mealy Mountains national park that, if finalized, will open the park permanently to “traditional” (not “subsistence”) hunting by locals – including the entire population of the greater Happy Valley-Goose Bay metropolitan area. This comprises some 10,000 people, the majority of whom are non-native.

The federal government went further later that year, when it signed an understanding with Nova Scotia to establish Sable Island NP. The island is home to a large number of grazers (horses) introduced in the 1800s.

As alien megafauna which trample its native grasses, spook its nursing seals, and crush its nesting birds’ eggs. Parks Canada’s guiding principles and operational policies are clear that they would have to go when the park is finalized.

Yet in announcing the agreement, the federal minister referred specifically to preserving their presence. There was no science behind it. A significant number of people simply wanted them kept there, and that sufficed.

In short, whatever the “rulebook” says, it’s no longer being applied. There’s not even been any significant push-back from environmental organizations.

Barring an epiphany on the part of Parks Canada before these changes become official, hunting by locals and grazing by exotic species thus look set to become acceptable practices within national parks.

Other heretofore banned activities may, too, if their supporters prove vocal enough.

At this point, any claim that any activity would be prohibited in a future Okanagan national park – or elsewhere – would appear groundless.It’s just a matter of being insistent.

John O’Driscoll