Provincial government asked to support creation of Similkameen National Park

— The effort to create a national park north of the Canadian border is allive and well and may be gaining political steam.

The Regional District of North Okanagan will ask the British Columbian provincial government to create a new South-Okanagan Similkameen National Park.

The proposal calls on the provincial government to to consider a new park in the Similkameen River basin stretching from the U.S.-Canada border north to the Oliver area.

“We really deserve to have a national park in the area,” Regional District Chairman Patcik Nicol told Vernon, B.C.-based Morning Star newspaper.

The park proposal has been on the table for years, hampered by opposition from ranchers and other property and grazing rights advocates. But the current proposal is smaller than the orginal plan.

South of the border, ranchers and property rights advocates continue to oppose efforts by state, tribal and federal government to purchase land and water rights.

In Okanogan County, residents and officials see the efforts both north and south of the border as a backdoor effort to implement the Yellowstone-to-Yukon initiative calling for the creation of a protected area for wildlife.

Yellowstone to Yukon would stretch from Yellowstone National Park in Wyoming, north and west along the Rocky, Bitterroot and Cascade mountains to the Yukon territory in northern Canada.

The Okanogan County Farm Bureau has been actively collecting data on governmental land and water rights acquisitions.

The South Okanagan-Similkameen National Park Network is backing the national proposal, network coordinator Doreen Olson said.

“A new national park in the region will enhance tourism, business and wineries; develop new jobs, encourage investment and improve the economic well-being of the communities...,” she said.

The organization did not take a stand on the current debate over whether to rebuild Enloe Dam or breach it.

Breaching the dam, between Oroville and Nighthawk, would open the way for salmon and steelhead migration to resume into the Canadian portion of the Similkameen River.

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