To the Editor:
When I first moved to the Similkameen valley in the mid 80s to assume a new position I quickly became aware of the awesome natural surroundings of the area. Unlike the cities I had been living it seemed that mother nature was right outside my door. Within minutes of my house I could be walking along the picturesque Similkameen river or hiking along some beautiful mountain trails. Over the past few decades I have hiked and camped in the Cathedrals and Ashnola watershed areas more times than I can remember. This proximity and exposure to nature has created within me a deep regard and appreciation of wilderness areas. Sadly, I also see that the wilderness is disappearing. That is why, after much consideration I will be putting my support behind the national park reserve(NPR) proposal for the South Okanagan/Lower Similkameen.
Like many of you I have reservations about Parks Canda given it’s management philosophy of some other national parks, but it is apparent this is the only option to prevent continuous human incursion and urbanization of these sensitive grassland areas. Presently there are some pieces within the proposed areas that are under provincial protection but this level of protection could be easily eroded by changes in provincial politics or strong local influences. NPR status would offer durable long term protection.
There are two areas proposed for NPR status, one lies west of Osoyoos and south of highway 3 to the Canada/US border, the other, a smaller piece lies north and slightly west of Oliver. The combined area of these two pieces is about 150 square kilometers.Between these two pieces is Mt Kobau and its immediate environs, this is a much larger piece (and in my view the real jewel of the area) but it is not in the NPR proposal.
However it is being considered for a provincial conservancy. Both of these proposed areas have growing populations nearby and unless given legislative protection would I am sure,succumb after a few generations, to private development and another patch of wilderness would be gone. Grassland areas are significant to a variety of at risk plant and animal species as well as migrating animal populations. As I now learn,grasslands are a disappearing feature of the Canadian landscape but are biologically very important hence the reason the federal government wishes to see the area protected. Apart from the biological aspects, leaving an area in a natural state provides for better carbon sequestration than areas that are urbanized.
We humans have the capability to sprawl in an unbridled fashion over the face of the planet.With our great technological abilities we are not held in check by the harsh natural laws that govern the other species. It is easy for us to be exploitive of our environment, we find it much harder, and it seems to almost go against our grain, to work at being intelligent caretakers of the environment. The NPR debate has been an unhappily divisive issue in my community, even to the point that wilful damage has been done to property of a more visible park proponent. Pro park signage has been aggressively vandalized. At a recent public information meeting about the park an RCMP officer remained in attendance.
Despite the rancor and hard feelings I belive there is some commonality of opinion. I sense from both sides there is a deep caring for the lands in question. The differences seem to be in what form the preservation should take.For me I am trying to take a longer view of the situation. Simply put these lands will be there in some form or another long after our lives are passed. I therefore ask why don’t we leave them as much as possible in their natural state. Surely we can find it in ourselves to set aside a mere 150 square kilometers, not much larger than a dot on the total map of British Columbia, for a variety of plants and animals that have lived there hundreds of years before we arrived. Not to do so really speaks to the more base and selfish part of our psychology. Remember these species don’t get to vote on the issue.
If you feel as I do please consider supporting political candidates in the upcoming provincial election who will speak for wilderness areas. The incumbent MLA in our area however has not given strong voice to the NPR proposal.
Gerald Partridge BSc. MD