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National park study must fit region’s needs

We do not envy Parks Canada officials as they continue their study of whether a new national park is feasible in the South Okanagan. What parts of the study area should be included? What parts can be included? And what are the obstacles to their inclusion?

Naturally, the answers depend on whom you ask. First Nations, conservationists and current commercial users of the land each have different ideas. Sometimes, they complement one another. Sometimes, they contradict. The circumstances of the feasibility study has brought about diplomacy and coalition building, as well as instigating propaganda for or against the proposal.

This is why this study goes far beyond drawing lines on a map. It looks more like putting together a complex puzzle without knowing what the eventual picture will look like, while everybody else tells the would-be puzzle solver what the picture should look like.

This space has generally supported policies favouring the protection of the natural environment and its resources. But neither opponents nor supporters of the national park should interpret that statement one way or another.

We ­— like all the other parties — still await all the answers now being compiled by the feasibility study. We have certainly seen enough convincing evidence in support of a national park.

The biological imperative for a national park in the South Okanagan is strong and getting stronger as development threatens one of the most unique and fragile eco-systems in not only Canada, but the world.

But several questions such as the future status of First Nations land claims and tenure agreements covering a wide range of commercial uses still await answers. It is our hope that this information will come forward soon.

We are certainly pleased to hear that Parks Canada has confirmed its original promise to respect the principles of “fairness and certainty” in dealing with land owners and we expect that this commitment to due process will continue in the coming months.

But the practices and principles raised by the natural park go far beyond immediate concerns. They strike at the very heart of the future shape of our society and its place in the natural world. This is we why encourage everybody to be contemplative of the future and patient in the present as Parks Canada wraps up its feasibility study.

It is has entered a crucial stage and its conclusions will not satisfy everybody.

But we must do everything we can to ensure that the study itself was satisfactory.

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