Standing Up For Our Parks & Protected Areas
The Save Owls Head Provincial Park/Little Harbour from Becoming Golf Courses Facebook group is a grassroots movement of over 10,000 concerned citizens and scientists, passionate about saving Owls Head Provincial Park.
Over two dozen environmental associations, including the Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society (CPAWS NS), the Ecology Action Centre, Eastern Shore Forest Watch Association, and World Wildlife Fund Canada have called for the government to formally protect Owls Head Provincial Park.
Individuals have sent thousands of letters to the provincial government. In order to hold the Nova Scotia government accountable, supporters of Owls Head Park raised $15,000 toward court costs in just 6 days. When the legal case moved forward, concerned citizens raised an additional $12,000, for a total of $27,000.
Owls Head Provincial Park has a Tier 1 (top-priority) conservation rating. It includes habitat for endangered species, biodiverse wetlands, and a globally rare ecosystem. Biologist Caitlin Porter reported that the development of Owls Head would mean “complete destruction of [the site’s] ecological features.”
In March of 2019, the Nova Scotia government secretly removed Owls Head Provincial Park from the pending protection list (the 2013 Our Parks and Protected Areas Plan), in order to sell it to a private developer. Despite the property’s 45-year history of promised protections, the provincial government delisted Owls Head Provincial Park without consulting with – or notifying – the public. Nor did the government consult with the Mi’kmaq of Nova Scotia (the original caretakers of this unceded land).
In December of 2019, investigative journalist Michael Gorman of the CBC revealed the province’s plan. Gorman discovered the secret delisting and offer to sell Owls Head Provincial Park thanks to a whistleblower and a Freedom of Information request. Intense opposition was swift. Less than 24 hours after Gorman’s article was published, concerned citizen Sydnee McKay founded the Facebook group.
At the time that the applicants first went to court, nearly half of what Nova Scotians consider provincial parks weren’t legally protected parks at all. In June 2020, the Chronicle Herald reported, “Of 206 provincial parks in Nova Scotia, 102 are awaiting official designation.” In many cases, citizens have no idea that these “provincial parks” aren’t formally protected.
Today, there are approximately 125 provincial parks, nature reserves, and wilderness areas awaiting legal protection. Until they are designated, these properties will be at risk.
When it comes to these vulnerable properties, “the exact same state that befell Owls Head could potentially happen,” explains lawyer Jamie Simpson. Furthermore, “we have no assurance that the department would let the public know that a sale was pending.”
What We’re Advocating For:
- Ensure that the government legally protects Owls Head Provincial Park
- Prevent a precedent of government secretly delisting and offering to sell public park lands
- Seek formal protection for all properties on the Parks and Protected Areas Plan, in order to preserve them in perpetuity as provincial parks, wilderness areas, and nature reserves.
- Protect public land for future generations through conservation science, meaningful public consultation, and transparent governance.
- Recommit to the Eastern Shore Seaside Park System and make the Eastern Shore a leading nature tourism destination
- Year in Review: Highlights of 2020
- N.S. won’t protect land with ‘globally rare’ ecosystem that company eyes for golf resort by Michael Gorman
- Letter from Scientists at St. Mary’s University (Caitlin Porter & Jeremy Lundholm)
- Owls Head development would mean ‘complete destruction of its ecology, says biologist
Photo by Kevin Prinoski. Graphic design by Helen Michel.