Lyonel Doherty

As a guest editor with the Pioneer, I read with interest the recent story (March 31) about Columbia Valley’s environment perceivably “on the losing end” of a recreation planning initiative.

Of note, the Steamboat Landscape Unit is an important wildlife habitat that is slowly being compromised, according to some property owners in the region.

Balancing recreation with flora and fauna has got to be one of the most difficult challenges there is, especially when it comes to engaging all stakeholders to ensure their input is heard.

Of course, if animals could talk, they would plead with us to leave their habitat alone and go build our trails elsewhere. But this is not Alice in Wonderland or Charlotte’s Web, it’s real life, and with that comes progress and the pressures behind it.

Struggling with the same conundrum are the towns of Oliver and Osoyoos in the South Okanagan. 

If you have driven through this region you may have noticed the signs shouting “No National Park.” These are opponents of the South Okanagan National Park Reserve that is being proposed practically in their backyard. Many of these people are hunters, anglers, ranchers, and ATV riders who don’t want their recreational pursuits threatened by Parks Canada. They fear that once a national park is established, they will lose their playground. But Parks Canada has promised to leave grazing land alone and only acquire land from willing sellers.

Rallying on the other side of the coin are the environmentalists who argue that a national park is necessary to protect wildlife corridors from erosion by developers and recreationalists. Yet they are eager to welcome countless tourists and the jobs the park will bring to the area.

Over the years the issue has grown very contentious in the South Okanagan with signs being vandalized. Hopefully nothing like that will happen in the Columbia Valley if the initiative takes off.

There is no doubt that recreation is a key component to a healthy and economically viable region. A network of hiking and cycling trails is paramount as is tourism, but the right balance is crucial if we are to be responsible stewards of our fragile environment.

We must always remember that once a species is gone due to urban encroachment, it’s gone; we can’t get it back. The fact is it’s much easier to build trails than to keep a vulnerable species off the endangered list.

As in the South Okanagan, there must be a fine balance in the Columbia Valley if nature and  recreation can co-exist without detriment to each other.