National park reserve in the South Okanagan-Similkameen moves forward

Parks Canada

  The South Okanagan-Similkameen region is an ecological treasure. A rare ecosystem that runs from rolling green hills to semi-arid desert. For millennia, the syilx/Okanagan Nation has called this region home and has been steward of the land, water, plants, and animals that make this place so special. It is home to 11% of Canada’s species at risk, including American badgers, flammulated owls, yellow-breasted chats, desert night snakes, and western rattlesnakes. As we come to terms with the worldwide biodiversity crisis, we can’t afford to wait to protect nature for our kids and grandkids – especially places as unique as the South Okanagan-Similkameen.

Today, the Governments of Canada and British Columbia and the syilx/Okanagan Nation signed a Memorandum of Understanding to formally work toward establishing a national park reserve in the South Okanagan-Similkameen. This is a significant step towards the establishment of a national park reserve in the South Okanagan-Similkameen.

The iʔ sc̓ax̌ʷtət / Memorandum of Understanding – which confirms the working boundary for the proposed national park reserve, outlines next steps and provides a framework of naqscn/knʔxtwix / collaboration as negotiations begin for an establishment agreement – was signed by the Honourable Catherine McKenna, Minister of Environment and Climate Change and Minister responsible for Parks Canada, the Honourable George Heyman, B.C. Minister of Environment and Climate Change Strategy, Chief Clarence Louie of the Osoyoos Indian Band, and Chief Keith Crow of the Lower Similkameen Indian Band. Working together, the Governments of Canada and British Columbia and the syilx/Okanagan Nation are taking action to protect this iconic natural and cultural landscape for future generations.

Partners also announced the working boundary of the proposed national park reserve. The area is 273 square kilometres of natural and cultural landscapes in the tx̌asqn (Mt Kobau), kɬlilxʷ (Spotted Lake), and nk̓lpulaxʷ (Kilpoola) areas of the iʔ nxʷəlxʷəltantət (South Okanagan – Similkameen) area, including BC Parks’ South Okanagan Grasslands Protected Area.

A recent global study conducted by the United Nations involving 145 experts from 50 countries combined with insights from Indigenous and local knowledge found that species loss is occurring at a faster rate than ever before in human history and nearly a million species are at risk of extinction due to disappearing wilderness and human impacts on the planet. As one of five countries that holds the world’s last remaining vast wilderness spaces, Canada and our provincial and territorial and Indigenous partners are taking action to protect our nature, with a goal of doubling protected space across our lands and oceans. These spaces are home to the plants and animals we all love.

Parks Canada’s places offer the highest level of protection for nature based on international standards. Parks Canada works closely with Indigenous partners and local communities to preserve these iconic natural spaces -  from glacier-cloaked mountains, to crystalline lakes, to immense forests and wilderness beaches - and share these national treasures with Canadians. Protecting our nature preserves a fundamental source of knowledge, prosperity, and lifelong memories for all Canadians – today, and for generations to come.

Parks Canada and its partners are committed to continue working with stakeholders and local residents to take advantage of opportunities and find solutions to concerns raised through the public consultations.

For more specific information about the proposed national park reserve in the South Okanagan-Similkameen, visit the Frequently Asked Questions on the Parks Canada’s website.