Biodiversity & Owls Head

“When scientists speak of the variety of organisms (and their genes) in an ecosystem, they refer to it as biodiversity. […] The opposite of biodiversity is referred to as monoculture, or the growing of one species of organism, such as a lawn, a wheat field or cornfield.” Golf courses also constitute a monoculture.

On March 14, 2019, the Minister of Lands and Forestry introduced an Act to Provide for the Conservation and Sustainable Use of Biodiversity in Nova Scotia in the Legislature. On December 18, 2019, Lands and Forestry Minister Iain Rankin expressed that “the government was comfortable removing the designation from Owls Head because the land isn’t a priority for legal protection.” (Michael Gorman, CBC).

Ermine by Susan Vickery
Ermine by Susan Vickery
Labrador Tea Flower by Caitlin Porter
Red Fox by Susan Vickery
Red Fox by Susan Vickery

“There isn’t high biodiversity value when you compare [Owls Head] to other pieces of land that we’ve advanced [for legal protection],” claimed Minister Rankin. According to his Department’s definition, “Significant Habitats” include:

  1. Sites where species at risk or other species of conservation concern can be found and/or;
  2. Sites where unusually large concentrations of wildlife occur and/or;
  3. Habitats that are rare in the province.
    (Significant Species and Habitats Database)

Fifteen years of research by the Ecology of Plants in Communities Lab at St. Mary’s University has revealed the following:

Owls Head is characterized by repeating bedrock ridges that support a coastal barrens ecosystem. A globally rare heathland plant community occurs on the crests of the ridges and biodiverse bog wetlands predominate in the depressions between the ridges […] Our data show that at least 28% (and up to 51%) of the area of Owl’s Head Provincial Park is wetland. The largest area of these wetlands consists of interconnected and biodiverse bog wetlands that occur in mostly linear-shaped features distributed across the entire area of the site. A golf course development at this site conflicts with Nova Scotia’s Wetland Conservation Policy in that it would lead to:

1) Unavoidable loss of wetlands and
2) Loss of “wetlands of special significance” under the policy due to the presence of
  a) a salt marsh
  b) biodiverse wetlands and
  c) bogs within protected areas

– Caitlin Porter, MSc & Jeremy Lundholm, PhD

I suggest that Minister Rankin is acting in disregard of his responsibilities and obligations, with respect to the secret delisting and sale of Owls Head Provincial Park, in particular, his obligations to protect biodiversity, wetlands, and significant habitats.

Stop the sale. Save Owls Head.

Christopher Trider

Further Reading:

Editor’s Note: Bill No. 116, the Biodiversity Act, has yet to become a law. Nevertheless, the Biodiversity Act was introduced by The Honourable Iain Rankin, Minister of Lands and Forestry. If Minister Rankin is truly concerned about biodiversity, he will not allow the sale and development of Owls Head to proceed. —Lindsay Lee

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