Parks Canada, the BC Government and Okanagan Nation signed a high-level memorandum of understanding regarding collaborating on the South Okanagan-Similkameen proposed national park reserve on July 2, 2019.
The MOU follows 17 years of discussions regarding a national park, which in turn followed the establishment of protected areas under the Okanagan-Shuswap Land and Resource Management Plan (LRMP), which was begun in 1995 and approved by government in 2001. During the LRMP process, the BC Geological Survey ranked the tract that includes the proposed reserve as very high in mineral potential as the 18th highest out of 794 tracts covering the province. Although “guaranteed access to Crown (and private) land by free miners for exploration and development” is a main objective of the LRMP, assessment of mineral potential and opportunities for mineral exploration and development are absent from Parks Canada materials regarding the South Okanagan-Similkameen proposed national park reserve.
A working boundary
The working boundary of the park reserve surrounds highly prospective mineral lands in three areas with past-producing mines: Fairview (near Oliver), Dankoe-Utica (near Cawston and Keremeos) and Dividend (near Osoyoos). A Conditional Registration Reserve in place since 2007 allows for mineral claim registration, exploration and development within the proposed park as long as these activities do not interfere with Parks Canada activities. Furthermore, the “willing seller, willing buyer” mandate of Parks Canada prevents the federal government from expropriating mineral tenure. Despite these legislative tools that permit mineral exploration and development, however, the intent of Parks Canada is to include these areas in a national park reserve, although such a process takes decades to accomplish.
What action AME is taking
AME first expressed its concerns regarding the proposed national park reserve to Parks Canada in 2005, and since then has monitored this file both with Parks Canada staff as well as officials from the provincial government. Our three requests have centered around the assessment of mineral potential; modification of the working boundary to avoid areas with high mineral potential; and clarity regarding compensation for any expropriated tenure. Read the AME submission.
AME will continue to engage with mineral tenure holders, Parks Canada and the BC government regarding clarity on timelines and a final boundary; In addition, we believe that mineral exploration, development and mining, along with other long-standing uses of the land including ranching and farming, are compatible with protecting the integrity of the shrub-steppe ecosystem and in addition could provide opportunities for local communities and Indigenous groups.