Photo: Graham Osborne
With its semi-arid deserts of fragrant sagebrush, and its valleys dotted with ponderosa pine, the nxʷəlxʷəltantət (South Okanagan-Similkameen) grasslands are a place where birds like the Flammulated Owl soar, and North American Badgers burrow to build their homes. In the coming years, these animals—along with over 200 other red listed species in BC—will be better protected through a new National Park Reserve (NPR) that will bring several smaller protected areas together into one continuous park.
Grasslands are one of the most endangered ecosystems in the world. Protecting these grasslands should be a top priority—doing so will honour the cultural values of the sməlqmix / suknaʔkinx (Okanagan First Nation), slow species extinction, keep huge amounts of carbon stored in the ground, and provide meaningful recreation opportunities through birdwatching, hiking and more. It would also boost local economies in nearby communities like Osoyoos and Oliver.
After nearly 20 years of hard work from local communities and CPAWS-BC advocating for protection in the South Okanagan-Similkameen, three levels of government—the syilx/Okanagan Nation, provincial, and federal–signed iʔ sc̓ax̌ʷtət, a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) to begin formal work on establishing a National Park Reserve (NPR) in the area. This park would span 27,300 hectares and protect dozens of species that need our help.
- 2003: Canada and BC sign an MOU to assess the feasibility of an NPR in the South Okanagan
2012: Okanagan First Nation completes feasibility study for potential park
- 2017: Okanagan Nation Alliance, Canadian and BC governments renew promise to create park
- 2018: Consultations on park begin
- 2019: Woohoo! MOU signed to solidify commitment to park
- 2020: Negotiations begin
Currently, negotiations between the syilx/Okanagan Nation, BC, and Canada are underway: this process can take up to four years. In an August 2021 newsletter, Parks Canada noted that no new mining or logging ventures could take place until a final decision on park establishment is made.