Standing Up For Our Parks & Protected Areas
We are a grassroots movement of over 10,000 concerned citizens, scientists, and Mi’kmaw Land and Water Protectors. Our two-and-a-half years of unwavering dedication and extraordinary efforts paid off; Owls Head Provincial Park is finally protected after nearly 50 years awaiting designation.
Thanks to a whistleblower and Freedom of Information Request, investigative journalist Michael Gorman of the CBC revealed the government’s secret delisting and plan to sell the park. Intense opposition was swift, with the launch of the Facebook group less than 24 hours after Gorman’s article was published.
Fearing they had no recourse outside of the judicial system, supporters of Owls Head Provincial Park raised the full $15,000 necessary for the first part of the court case—in only 6 days.
A Park Nearly Five Decades in the Making
Owls Head Provincial Park has a Tier 1 (top-priority) conservation rating. It includes habitat for endangered species, biodiverse wetlands, and a globally rare plant ecosystem.
Putting Private Interests Before Public Fairness
To try to sell the public park to a private developer, the provincial government secretly removed Owls Head Provincial Park from the pending protection list (Our Parks and Protected Areas Plan) in March of 2019. Up to that point, the McNeil government had already orchestrated three years of secrecy, which would have been longer still if not for the whistleblower.
Despite the property’s extensive history of promised protections, the Liberal government delisted Owls Head Provincial Park without consulting with—or notifying—the general public or the Mi’kmaq of Nova Scotia. In an unprecedented move, the McNeil government then scrubbed its own websites of references to Owls Head Provincial Park after Michael Gorman Broke the story.
Nova Scotians remain concerned that the former government secretly delisted Owls Head Provincial Park without scientific review, public notice, or public consultation.
Protected in Name Only
When 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.”
Between proposed and pending provincial parks, nature reserves, and wilderness areas, there were almost 200 sites without legal protection. Thankfully, we are making progress, but there are still approximately 125 sites awaiting legal protection. 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.”
As the applicants explained in their brief, “There is no practical difference discernible to the public between the Department’s representation and management of Provincial Parks designated by regulation and Provincial Parks that are parks in name, management, and use only.”
People Power at Work
- Ensure that the government legally protects Owls Head Provincial Park (done!)
- 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
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 stop the sale, protect Owls Head Park, and fully implement Our Parks and Protected Areas Plan. To learn more, please visit our Allies page.
- 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