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First Nations breathes new life into grassland park

Feb 26, 2013

To protect sacred sites and practice traditional knowledge and uses, First Nations bands who share the unique "pocket desert" ecosystem of south-central BC have banded together to support a proposed new South-Okanagan Similkameen Grasslands National Park.

First Nations breathes new life into grassland park

Elder Theresa Ann Terbasket, of the Lower Similkameen band, shares a story - and a quail egg - practicing traditional knowledge in the grasslands.

To protect sacred sites and practice traditional knowledge and uses, First Nations bands who share the "pocket desert" ecosystem of south-central British Columbia have banded together to support a South-Okanagan Similkameen Grasslands National Park.

Learn more about the proposed SOS Grasslands Park

"You look at the land when development happens, and you never see that kind of pristine grassland area or a really healthy forest," said Chief Robert Edward of the Lower Similkameen band. "We want to be a part of this."

The grasslands-forest ecosystem of the park is a continuation of the Okanogan Valley on the US side, where Conservation Northwest has worked to protect ranch lands for traditional ranching and as wildlife habitat.

The proposed park of 300 square kilometers of upland grasslands near Osoyoos and Keremeos would avert development and mining from sensitive lands and and protect native wildlife. Some of the desert wildlife are species at risk and many are found nowhere else in Canada.

The idea of the park has been around for a decade, but the BC government pulled back from the proposal last year. Support from First Nations inserts new life for the national park; it would be the only such park in Canada.

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