Environmental issues don’t have political boundaries

It is disheartening and disappointing to see engaged citizens (Penticton Western News, Nov. 16, Unanswered questions on conservation fund ) write inaccuracies, reminiscent of some politicians writers so commonly castigate.

First off, the proposed conservation fund has absolutely nothing to do with the Skaha Park-Trio fiasco or the future needs of Penticton’s infrastructure. It is solely about addressing some of the needs of the environment in the South Okanagan including Penticton (none of the Similkameen portion of the Regional District of Okanagan-Similkameen is included in this bylaw).

There is no way to predict that the majority of the funding will be spent outside of Penticton. Environmental issues do not follow political boundaries.

Residents understand that habitat, water and wildlife exist within, and across our community boundaries. It is heartening to see elected officials from municipalities and the regional district are co-operating regionally for conservation. Penticton has a great need for conservation and restoration within the city boundaries — certainly the needs exceed the funds available. Some examples are fish habitat restoration on Penticton and Ellis Creek’s, continuing restoration of the Oxbows (the first work only began this year), wetlands restoration (including those adjacent to Skaha Park), etc. The salmon spawning beds enhancement that recently took place in Penticton on the Okanagan River was not funded by the City of Penticton — should that work have not been undertaken because Penticton didn’t contribute?

It is misinformation that fund costs in other areas soon increased to $25 per property.  To the best of my knowledge, there are five regional districts with some form of conservation fund and only one has increased the levy — the Capital Regional District increased the amount after 10 years when the citizens voted to increase it. Yes, the fund was so successful, the residents actually voted to double the levy from $10 to $20. The East Kootenay Regional District established their fund in 2008 at $20/parcel and it has remained so with no plan to increase it. Projects will be evaluated by an independent committee and go ahead only after approval by those municipal and rural elected officials who represent their constituents at the RDOS Board — the administration of the funds will not be in private hands. Those that want to be against the fun,  should do it with the facts, not mistruths and misinformation.

Robert Handfield