The South Okanagan Similkameen is located in the southern interior of British Columbia between the South Okanagan and Lower Similkameen Valleys, and is a high priority area for conservation action with its rich biodiversity and unique contribution to Canada’s landscape.
Nestled in the heart of British Columbia lies a golden treasure waiting to be protected. Its rolling hills and sweeping valleys support a fragile array of life while providing an escape into nature for people like you and me. A national park will forever preserve the beauty of this stunning landscape and maintain the delicate balance upon which it relies.
Parks Canada has identified the need to create a national park in the South Okanagan-Similkameen in order to achieve representation of several rare ecosystem types. We are encouraged that in the South Okanagan local First Nations have come out in support of the national park reserve concept, as well as local businesses, politicians and tourism associations.
CPAWS is encouraging the Government of B.C. to examine the growing evidence of support for the creation of the national park, to consider the economic and conservation benefits that it would deliver, and to initiate a new conversation with the Government of Canada and local First Nations about creating the national park.
The South Okanagan Similkameen region contains Canada’s only “pocket desert." With the Dominion Radio Observatory, there is a possibility of having a Dark Skies National Park - a magnificent opportunity for viewing millions of stars.
The natural environments of the South Okanagan Similkameen are among the most endangered in Canada with the region experiencing unprecedented growth and development. Fifty-six federally-listed species-at-risk are found in this region including birds, mammals, and plants found nowhere else in Canada such as Lyall’s Mariposa Lily, Flammulated Owl, and Great Basin Spadefoot (toad.) It is also a migration stop for countless songbirds. The area has suffered many ecological losses already, including the burrowing owl, sharp-tailed grouse, and white-tailed jackrabbit.
More than half of the antelope brush eco-systems have been lost. Less than 10% of historic grasslands and unique rockface-grassland habitats remain in their natural state, which includes two of the four most endangered ecosystems in Canada—the dry bunchgrass grasslands and open ponderosa pine forests. These are home to California bighorn sheep, pallid bats, and prairie falcons. If the nature disappears, this area will indeed be deserted—void of the life that keeps it rich and vibrant. Only a national park reserve can truly protect this world forever.
Over the past few years there has been a groundswell of local support building for the creation of the national park. Working with a passionate and dedicated group of local volunteers, CPAWS leads the campaign to create a national park in the South Okanagan Similkameen. We work with leaders in the local community to communicate to residents about the value of the park, as well as carry out scientific assessments, lead tours into the grasslands and advocate for the protection of this important region.
Beyond the known conservation and recreation benefits, parks are significant economic drivers. Across B.C. national parks have proven their ability to generate millions of dollars in revenue, create long-term job opportunities and promote visitor spending, as documented in a 2010 report by the Outspan Group (The Economic Value of Parks Canada). Canada’s parks contribute 5 billion dollars to the Canadian economy and create approximately 64,000 jobs.
The diversification of the local economy is expected to attract young families to the area, and will contribute to maintaining the viability of local schools, hotels, and other services. In addition, designating this area as a national park reserve would guarantee public access to the land and associated recreational and health benefits.
Experience the beauty of the South Okanagan's grasslands for yourself! With input from our community partners and Okanagan locals, we've put together a map of the region's trail system to help you explore the proposed park area. Hard copies of the map can be obtained at various local businesses in the Okanagan, and at the visitors centres in Oliver and Osoyoos. We can also mail you a copy - send your request by email to email@example.com.
Many thanks to Mountain Equipment Co-Op and the Stewart Fund for their generous support of this project.
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