The Delisting of Owls Head Provincial Park Reserve

By Caitlin Grady of CPAWS NS

Originally published here

A lot has happened since the CBC investigative report by Michael Gorman uncovered the secret delisting of Owls Head Provincial Park Reserve by the Nova Scotia government. This backroom deal to turn a park into a golf course development has drawn huge public condemnation, and rightly so.

Here’s what we know so far:

2017 – Negotiations begin behind-closed-doors to delist Owls Head Provincial Park Reserve and remove the site from the Nova Scotia ‘Our Parks and Protected Areas Plan’. 

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Save Owls Head Joint Letter

Marchers at Feb 20 Rally

Office of the Premier
7th Floor, One Government Place
1700 Granville Street
Halifax, NS
B3J 1X5

March 10, 2020

Dear Premier Stephen McNeil:

Owls Head is an ecologically significant area along the Eastern Shore that is deserving of legal protection. It contains a number of rare ecosystem types, as well as important habitat for migratory birds and species-at-risk. It is a key headland within the “100 wild islands” ecosystem.

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Betrayal of Public (Service)

Owls Head Aerial, Caitlin Porter

The secret delisting and offer to sell Owls Head Provincial Park is not just a betrayal of the public, it is also a betrayal of the public service. You see there are a lot of good, smart, dedicated people in the Nova Scotia Public Service and this course of action by elected representatives is an insult to their training and their dedication.

You can see the climbers in the CBC’s FOIPOP (Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy) data, no need to name names. But I know someone who would be close to this and my heart aches for her. As I said, there are some very good people who know their jobs, people I respect very much, who just did not get listened to by an arrogant and duplicitous government. It chose to throw the professional opinions aside and charge ahead in secrecy and deceit. The irony is that those good, smart, dedicated people are there to protect the government. They should have been listened to.

Stop the sale. Save Owls Head.

Christopher Trider

Weasel Awards

The starting point for this group was a CBC article by Michael Gorman. That article, on December 18, revealed that a secretive process was underway to remove Owls Head Provincial Park from the list of protected lands in the Nova Scotia Parks and Protected Areas Plan, and sell it to a private developer… reportedly for the development of three golf courses. It was revealed in that story that there was absolutely no public consultation nor scientific basis for removing the 661 acres of pristine coastal barrens from the protection and public ownership it had enjoyed for 45 years.

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Video: MLA Kevin Murphy Defends Secret Delisting Process at Chamber Meeting

MLA Murphy Defends Owls Head Delisting Process

In this video from the Musquodoboit Harbour Chamber of Commerce meeting at the Old School in Musquodoboit Harbour on Wednesday, January 22, 2020, MLA Kevin Murphy mounts a vigorous defense of the controversial decision by the provincial government to remove Owls Head Provincial Park from a list of protected areas in order to sell it to a very wealthy American couple who want to build as many as three golf courses there. [We apologize for the loud typing in the background.]Here are a few highlights to listen for: 1. Murphy insists that despite all of the documents identifying the land as “Owls Head Provincial Park,” the land was never anything more than “unceded Crown land…a piece of property that does not enjoy any protected status.” [Our italics]2. People who thought that the land was protected simply did not read the relevant documents carefully enough and missed all of the “ifs.” 3. It was a “previous government” that released “Our Parks and Protected Areas: A Plan for Nova Scotia” in 2013. 4. The Cabinet was entirely within its right to use a “minute” letter to keep its decision to delist the land a secret. 5. He said there were some people who never want to cut down a single tree, but the province needed to strike a “balance” between protecting the environment and economic development. 6. He was hearing from many people in Little Harbour and “many significant business people in our area who have reached out to me who have expressed their support for the process…”[Our italics]7. He criticized the media for only telling “one side” of the story.

Posted by Eastern Shore Cooperator on Wednesday, 22 January 2020
Video of the Musquodoboit Harbour Chamber of Commerce meeting on Wednesday, January 22, 2020. Courtesy of the Eastern Shore Cooperator. Please allow a moment to load.

In a video on the Eastern Shore Cooperator’s Facebook page, MLA Kevin Murphy mounts a vigorous defense of the controversial decision by the provincial government to remove Owls Head Provincial Park from a list of protected areas in order to sell it to a very wealthy American couple who want to build as many as three golf courses there.

Richard Bell, Eastern Shore Cooperator
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