Biologist Caitlin Porter Responds to MP Sean Fraser

January 26, 2020

Dear Sean Fraser:

Thank you for your public comment, “If at the end of the day, there is not significant public support for the project or it becomes clear that the conservation value of this land is so high that the development would be irresponsible, then it should not proceed.”

Please do consider the existing science and also the concerns of the public. Much of this information is already publicly available and I have no doubt informed the selection of Owls Head Provincial Park as a candidate for further legal protections according to “Our Parks and Protected Areas Plan.”

I will address several questions and points that you have proposed:

RE: COMMENTS:

“From what information I currently have available, it appears there is conservation value to some of the federal lands at issue due to the potential presence of piping plovers”

AND

“But, we shouldn’t dismiss opportunities before we take time to consider them in a deliberate way.”

AND

“Some of the questions I would like to have answered….”

AND

“We should seek to determine whether this project can proceed in an environmentally responsible way:”

Please take the opportunity to read our open attached letter
RE: conservation value of Owls Head.

Please also consider the professional opinion and work of other biologists in Nova Scotia. For example, please see the publicly available documents relating to “Our Parks and Protected Areas Plan,” or consult e.g. the “Nova Scotia Wetlands Conservation Policy.” There is much information specifically about Owls Head that is widely available.

With respect to your comment: “I have been disappointed in some of the rhetoric targeting the developer based on the fact that he is from the United States. Discrimination against an individual based on their country of origin is unacceptable and runs counter to our reputation as a welcoming province and community.”

I can appreciate concerns about discrimination. However, our concern is legitimate and has nothing to do with discrimination. A private golf course development at the expense of public access to public lands considered a provincial park is unwelcome. As you have stated, the landowners have owned property in the area for more than a decade and until this time there was no public complaint.

Our concern: Public lands are being taken from the public. A provincial park has been de-listed, behind closed doors, for private gain.

Further, we feel unheard by our elected officials and confused as to why our government has held meetings behind closed doors and left us out of the conversation. American citizens are not eligible to vote in Nova Scotia but their interests have been given a voice and ours excluded. If it weren’t for the work of investigative reporting, we even wouldn’t be aware that the public consultations involved in the Parks and Protected Areas plan were being disregarded.

I support your view that “commitment to pursue economic growth for our region so more young people and families can stay at home.” However, I cannot see an economic gain with the conversion of Owls Head Provincial Park into a privately owned golf course, for many reasons, including but not limited to the facts that:

  1. Provincial parks contribute measurable economic value to industries such as tourism.
  2. The Government of Nova Scotia has already spent taxpayer dollars on Owls Head with its inclusion within Our Parks and Protected Areas Plan, including the time of countless public servants (e.g. GIS, science, public communications, etc), and whichever resources were required for public consultations (rental of meeting rooms, travel, etc). I can’t imagine that profit from the sale of these lands would be equal to or greater than these funds already spent.
  3. These lands are not of any value to natural resource industries such as forestry or agriculture – because soils are not conducive to those activities. Scientists have long demonstrated the impossibility of establishing commercially valuable trees on barrens.
  4. Ecosystem services provided by these lands have measurable economic value including but not limited to carbon sequestration of peatlands, water quality impact on the marine environment, and the protection of infrastructure from storms that comes with the protection of coastal lands.
  5. There are other economic arguments to be made in support of provincial parks but I feel this is a diversion from the main issue at hand: Owls Head is a Provincial Park, it has ecological value, it should not be sold from the public to the benefit of the comparatively fewer wealthy individuals who golf.

Sincerely,

Caitlin Porter

Further Reading:

Read Caitlin Porter’s letter on the ecological importance of Owls Head Provincial Park, here

Read Sean Fraser’s full statement, here

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