What’s This All About?

We make every effort to update this page as new information is made available. If you have a question that isn’t answered here, please email us at info@saveowlshead.org.

You can click on the – sign to the right of each question to collapse the answer.

Is there a petition I can sign?

Yes! In fact, there are two. We ask residents of Nova Scotia to please sign both.

1) An online petition, which you can sign here.

2) We also have a formal (paper) petition, which we will be submitting to the Legislature.

Where is Owls Head Provincial Park?

Owls Head Provincial Park is a coastal property on Nova Scotia’s Eastern Shore. Due to its proximity to the 100 Wild Islands, it has great potential for recreation (such as kayaking) and eco-tourism.

There are offshore eelgrass beds that support local fishing communities, such as Little Harbour. As part of the Atlantic Flyway (bird migration pattern), the park is an important coastal refuge for migratory birds. To learn more about the property’s avian diversity, click here.

Below is a map of the proposed Eastern Shore Seaside Park System from 1975. Only some of the parks have been formally protected thus far. (Click to enlarge the map)


Why is it important to protect Owls Head Provincial Park?

There are many reasons to discontinue the sale and formally protect Owls Head Provincial Park. The core issues are:

  1. Governmental ethics & transparency, including meaningful public consultation
  2. The need to protect biodiversity, including the globally rare plant ecosystem
  3. The desire to protect disappearing public access to our coasts
  4. The government’s commitment to Our Parks and Protected Areas Plan

Has Owls Head Provincial Park officially been sold?

No, the lands have not yet been sold. That means that this property is still legally Crown Land* (public land).

On December 16, 2019, the Department of Lands and Forestry entered into a Letter of Offer with Lighthouse Links Development Company to potentially sell Owls Head Provincial Park. The Letter of Offer” sets out the terms and conditions between the parties, but it does not approve the potential sale,” according to former Lands and Forestry Minister Iain Rankin (now Premier-elect Iain Rankin).

It’s worth noting that the letter of offer has no expiry date. However, the sale has yet to be finalized and the Department of Lands and Forestry’s decision to secretly delist the park has prompted applicants Bob Bancroft and Eastern Shore Forest Watch Association to take the case to court.

*We would like to emphasize that although the legal term is “Crown land,” this property is part of Mi’kma’ki, the ancestral and unceded territory of the Mi’kmaq People.

What does “delisted” actually mean?

Owls Head Provincial Park was site #694 in Our Parks and Protected Areas Plan, a comprehensive provincial plan released in 2013. Our Parks and Protected Areas Plan built on years of consultations with citizens, environmental organizations, industry representatives, and the Assembly of Nova Scotia Mi’kmaq Chiefs.

But the government of Nova Scotia secretly delisted Owls Head Provincial Park on March 13, 2019. Simply put, the government removed Owls Head Provincial Park from Our Parks and Protected Areas Plan without public notice or consultation.

“The first step that must be taken before the transaction can proceed is DNR obtaining authorization from Cabinet to remove the Crown lands from the Parks and Protected Areas Plan (PAPA). The PAPA was issued by the Minister of Environment and the Minister of Natural Resources in 2013 and lays out the commitment by the Province to work towards protecting lands identified in the Plan. All other processes are subject to this step being successfully completed.”

The Honourable Margaret Miller (then Minister of Natural Resources) to Mr. Beckwith Gilbert in 2017
Page from Our Parks and Protected Areas Plan, showing Owls Head Provincial Park as site #694

Who delisted Owls Head Provincial Park?

The Crown Lands Act states that “The Minister has supervision, direction and control of […] the acquisition, registration, survey and sale or disposition of Crown lands.” The applicants’ brief points out that the Minister of Lands and Forestry is ultimately the “Administrative Decision Maker,” based on the Crown Lands Act, the Endangered Species Act, and the Provincial Parks Act.

The Treasury and Policy Board (T&PB – a committee of the Executive Council) issued the minute letter that removed Owls Head Provincial Park from the Parks and Protected Areas Plan.

Nonetheless, the role of the T&PB was perfunctory in that the minute letter was not issued ‘out of thin air’ but rather at the request of the Minister [the Honourable Iain Rankin] who is responsible for the management and control of Crown lands and provincial parks. But for the Memorandum to Executive Council (MEC) requesting the removal of Owls Head Provincial Park, such a minute letter would not be issued by the T&PB.

Applicants Brief (Paragraph 112)

Did the government purge information from its website?

Yes. In an unprecedented move, the NS government sanitized its own websites of information about Owls Head Provincial Park after Michael Gorman broke the story of the secret delisting and proposed sale. The government surreptitiously removed the Owls Head Provincial Park Protection Values Sheet. The government also removed Owls Head Provincial Park from the online Parks and Protected Areas map.

“The provincial government claims that Owls Head was labelled a provincial park as the result of a clerical error. If so, the error went uncorrected for about 45 years. Until a couple of weeks ago, Owls Head Provincial Park had a page on the provincial government’s website, but that’s been scrubbed.” 

Jim Vibert: Owls Head becomes ground zero of land protection battle with province

In the government’s online map, Owls Head Provincial Park is still surrounded by a dark line, indicating that it is part of the “Lands in the final Parks and Protected Areas Plan (2013).” Reporter Tim Bousquet reported, “Owls Head Provincial Park Reserve has existed since the 1970s; that’s why it’s on the basemap.”

But I heard that the federal government cancelled the sale?

The federal government owns a 17-hectare property beside Owls Head Provincial Park (Owls Head Provincial Park itself is owned by our provincial government). The government of Nova Scotia had planned to buy the federal parcel so it could then be included in the Lighthouse Links development project.

In response to widespread opposition to the delisting of Owls Head Provincial Park, the federal government rescinded their offer to sell their adjacent parcel.

That federal parcel has been officially transferred to Environment and Climate Change Canada. You can read our letter to the Honourable Jonathan Wilkinson here.

“This is a significant development because it means the federal government is siding with conservation rather than development.”

Chris Miller, Executive Director of CPAWS NS

In contrast, the government of Nova Scotia has decided to proceed with the sale and development of a coastal headland with a globally rare plant ecosystem. “The provincial government has given no indication that they are backing away from their plans to sell these lands. This just means this particular piece of land is no longer part of that mix,” Chris Miller explained.

Map from FOIPOP showing provincial, federal, and private ownership

What is the sale price?

Based on a valuation report commissioned by the potential developer, this unique coastal ecosystem has been assessed at a mere $306/acre. This means that the 705.2-acre property, with over 5 miles of shoreline, would only cost the developer approximately $216,000, far below the asking price of nearby parcels. You can read the Letter of Offer, here.

“The parcel of rocky, rugged Crown land in Little Harbour is worth $216,000, according to the valuation report commissioned by Lighthouse Links and filed with the court. Although that report was previously made public, the value of the land had been redacted.

Michael Gorman, “Documents give details about controversial golf development in coastal N.S.”

Why is the sale price so low?

So why is the government selling a property with a rare ecosystem and a 45-year history of promised protections to a multi-billionaire, all at a price that would never be available to Nova Scotian citizens?

It has to do with the zoning of the property. Owls Head Provincial Park is predominantly zoned as RPK (Regional Park Zone). This zoning designation does not permit development or commercial recreation (such as golf courses). Therefore, the valuation of the property determined the “highest and best use” to be for conservation and recreation purposes.

As lawyer Jamie Simpson explained to CBC’s Michael Gorman, “This is valued as if it were undevelopable land.”

Barbara Markovits of Eastern Shore Forest Association explained, “The price of the land was based on the land being designated as parkland, with no development allowed. Yet the Department intended to sell it specifically for development, once it was de-listed from the Parks Plan.”

Markovits asks, “How is that a fair deal for Nova Scotians?”

Municipal Zoning Map: Owls Head Provincial Park is predominantly zoned as RPK (Regional Park Zone)

Why can’t concerned citizens buy Owls Head Provincial Park?

It’s worth noting that a citizens’ group buying Owls Head Provincial Park in order to save it would amount to buying a property that we, as Nova Scotians, already own.

Some people have asked whether the Nova Scotia Nature Trust could buy Owls Head Provincial Park. We know that this coastal headland would complement the Nature Trust’s 100 Wild Islands Project beautifully. But the Nature Trust buys private land in order to preserve it, not public land.

Due to the secretive way this situation has unfolded, no other individuals or organizations were given an opportunity to submit an offer. The province isn’t soliciting counter offers for the property. But should the Letter of Offer fall through, we will certainly let everyone know.

What is the proposed development?

While the sale price ($306/acre) is ludicrously low, the cost to develop the site is exorbitant.

The price to build the first golf course is an estimated $12.6 million. That’s because the topography of this site is not suitable for development.

“The above costs are much higher than the typical course because it would have to be built on ledge and sand is not easily available. The largest component consists of $5 million for earth moving/ledge removal and covering the area with sand, which must be trucked onto the site.

[…] We believe that significant savings, not accounted for in KemperSports estimate, can be achieved by building a sand plant to convert the ledge that is removed during golf course construction to sand.”

Lighthouse Links Development Co.

Richard Bell of the Eastern Shore Cooperator aptly described this plan as “literally grinding the park as it now exists into biological, ecological, and geological oblivion.”

“Media coverage since the December 19, 2019 revelation of the secret delisting of the park has focused on the creation of three golf courses. But the July 22, 2018 proposal shows that what Lighthouse Links is proposing is really a very large luxury housing development, with a few golf courses on the side.

“Sweetheart Deal for Owls Head” by Richard Bell (The Eastern Shore Cooperator)

Lighthouse Links confirms, “A successful real estate development program is expected to be necessary to help offset the high cost of the golf course construction.”

In addition to 1-3 golf courses, the Letter of Offer states, “development of a recreational and residential community” would include a clubhouse, single-family homes, and short-term accommodations.

The truth is, neither the government nor Lighthouse Links have been forthcoming about the details of the proposed development. No matter what Lighthouse Links would like to build, the company should find another site that is more suitable.

When it comes to a park reserve with a 45-year history and a rare ecosystem, the core issue isn’t golf course development. Nova Scotians deserve transparency, public consultation, evidence-based decision making, and environmental leadership from their government.

Courtesy of Peter Copus

To read the Application for the Use of Crown Land, the proposals from Lighthouse Links, the Valuation Report, the Memorandum to Executive Council, and the Letter of Offer, please visit our Resources page.

Did the local community bring this proposal forward?

No, it did not. Yet on his first day, Premier Rankin said, “Owls Head is a piece of land that was brought forward by a community. They wanted the government to go through with the process of looking at a project that could potentially exist there.”

This portrayal of the situation is inaccurate. The community did not bring forward the proposal to take a property slated for protection, secretly delist it, and offer it for sale. A prospective developer did that, and the government chose to work at his behest.

“The Minister was petitioned by a private developer, which included lobbying by a former Nova Scotia Liberal cabinet minister, to sell a Provincial Park for private resort and golf course development, without letting the public know of the removal of the public land’s status as a park and without letting the public know of the Letter of Offer for its sale.”

Applicants Pre-Hearing Brief (Paragraph 146)

The Department of Natural Resources own Branch Notice begins, “DNR has been approached by a developer to develop the land for a use other than a park.”

Freedom of Information Requests have shown that the government started exploring the delisting and sale of Owls Head Provincial Park in 2016, more than 3 years before investigative journalist Michael Gorman broke the story.

“The application to purchase the Owls Head Crown lands was formally initiated by Mr. Sean Glover (Cox & Palmer) on behalf of Mr. Beck Gilbert and his company Lighthouse Links Development Company, on September 23, 2016, by way of correspondence to Department of Natural Resources (as it was then known) staff and an attached “Application for the Use of Crown Land.” Mr. Glover requested that the application be kept confidential.”

Applicants Pre-Hearing Brief (Paragraph 33)

What’s happening in the court case?

Applicants Eastern Shore Forest Watch Association and former DNR biologist Bob Bancroft (represented by lawyer Jamie Simpson) went to court on behalf of concerned Nova Scotians on April 1, 2021.

This legal case was funded by supporters of the Save Owls Head movement, who have contributed over $27,000 in order to have their voices heard by their government. Thank you to all who donated.

Background: Applying for (and receiving) the time extension was the first step towards a judicial review. Had the judge not granted the extension, Forest Watch and Bob Bancroft would not have been allowed to proceed.

Justice Coady agreed that although the six-month window to file a judicial review had passed, “the secrecy of the decision precluded any member of the public from legally responding within the six-month window.” You can read Justice Coady’s decision here.

On August 18, 2020, the applicants filed an amended version of their initial request for a judicial review.

The amended petition challenges two different secret decisions by Lands and Forestry Minister Iain Rankin:  the decision to de-list the park on March 13, 2019 and the decision to entertain a Letter of Offer with the golf course developer on December 16, 2019.

In their petition, the applicants’ first major claim is that Lands and Forest Minister Iain Rankin breached “procedural fairness” in several ways, such as failing to provide notice to the public that he was considering the delisting and Letter of Offer, or holding any public consultation on the two matters.

The second claim is that Rankin’s decisions on delisting of the park and the signing of the Letter of Offer were “unreasonable” because he failed “to provide justification” for his decisions.

Richard Bell, The Eastern Shore Cooperator

To read the Applicants’ pre-hearing brief, click here.

Justice Christa Brothers has reserved her decision. The Chronicle Herald reported that a decision in the court case “is probably months down the road.”

What will happen if the applicants win the court case?

It’s difficult to predict what might happen following the court case.  If the applicants win, then Justice Brothers will hopefully order the Department of Lands and Forestry to remake its decision, taking into account the findings of the Court.

What will happen if the applicants lose the court case?

Again, it’s difficult to predict what might happen if the applicants lose the court case. However, the Applicants would have the option to appeal the Court’s decision.

Why is Owls Head Provincial Park deserving of environmental protection?

Planning to develop Owls Head Provincial Park– which has significant wetlands, coastal barrens, and offshore eelgrass beds – is an unfathomable decision in our current climate crisis. In short:

  1. The property has significant biodiversity and ecological value, including rare and endangered species of both plants and animals.
  2. Offshore are eelgrass beds. Eelgrass is a type of seagrass, and it is far more important than you might think. You can read more here.
  3. Owls Head Provincial Park has significant wetlands. Like eelgrass, wetlands provide a wide range of ecosystem services (services that benefit nature and humans alike). These include maintaining watershed health, minimizing erosion, filtering water, protecting coastlines from storm surges, and “storing and sequestering carbon from the atmosphere, potentially moderating climate effects.” (Nova Scotia Wetland Conservation Policy).

What species of conservation concern are present at Owls Head Provincial Park?

“The Coastal Broom Crowberry Heathland Ecosystem is, in particular, among the rarest in NS and one of the few that is globally significant. This site appears to be one of the more important locations for the ecosystem in the province, particularly with the ecosystem’s low level of protection.”

Sean P. Basquill, Provincial Biologist, Ecosystems and Habitats Program (revealed through FOIPOP 2020-0081-DLF)

“Vegetation on the bedrock ridges of Owls Head is dominated by a shrub called Broom Crowberry (Corema conradii). Broom Crowberry is endemic to northeastern North America, meaning this species can be found nowhere else in the world. […] If our province does not make an effort to protect this species, there will be no other opportunity elsewhere to protect it.”

Biologists Caitlin Porter & Dr. Jeremy Lundholm
Broom Crowberry (Corema conradii) Pistillate flowers by Green Optics Photography
Broom Crowberry (Corema conradii) Pistillate flowers by Green Optics Photography.
https://www.flickr.com/photos/60548141@N00/5607993801/in/photostream/

To learn more about the property’s avian diversity, click here.

The provincial land parcel and land directly adjacent include occurrences of two SAR [species at risk] – Piping plover (nationally and provincially endangered) and barn swallow (nationally threatened, provincially endangered). Other species of conservation concern (not legally listed but on provincial GS list) include Ruby-crowned Kinglet and Common Eider. Part of the area is mapped in our significant habitat database for nesting piping plovers.

Sean P. Basquill, Provincial Biologist, Ecosystems and Habitats Program (revealed through FOIPOP 2020-0081-DLF)
Part of Owls Head Provincial Park and the adjacent private property is mapped in the significant habitat database for nesting piping plovers

Broader ecological values at the landscape scale are similar to other coastal areas of Nova Scotia. The sites provide important foraging, breeding, and migratory habitat for birds and other faunal species. The relatively cool humid climate supports combinations of boreal and temperate plants and lichens, found nowhere else in Canada.

Sean P. Basquill, Provincial Biologist, Ecosystems and Habitats Program (revealed through FOIPOP 2020-0081-DLF)

“The marine environment around Owls Head supports meadows of eelgrass. Eelgrass is formally considered an Ecologically Important Species (ESS) for its functional role in protecting shorelines and supporting marine biodiversity. Eelgrass requires pristine water conditions and is not tolerant of nutrient pollution. (DFO 2009)”

Report on the Ecological Importance of Owls Head Crown land, page 14
Lobster in Eelgrass by Nick Hawkins Photography

How do we know? Have there been any studies done there?

Yes! Biologists from the Ecology of Plants in Communities (E.P.I.C.) Lab at St. Mary’s University have been conducting years of research at Owls Head Provincial Park.

If you’re interested in their findings, check out the “Report on the Ecological Importance of Owls Head Crown Land.

Owls Head Provincial Park is also mentioned as a habitat of the Broom Crowberry Coastal Barren in the newly released “Barrens Ecosystems in Nova Scotia: Classification of Heathlands and Related Plant Communities” (Porter, Basquill, and Lundholm). It’s an excellent publication available here.

In addition to these studies of wetlands and coastal plant communities, there have been studies on the offshore marine ecosystems and avian diversity.

CPAWS NS and a team of expert volunteers identified over 70 species of birds (including the provincially endangered barn swallow) during a few visits in 2020.

In 2020, marine biologist Dr. Kristina Boerder and a team of volunteers completed numerous underwater transects in their research on the offshore eelgrass beds. To learn more, check out our interview with Dr. Kristina Boerder here.

Why is it so important to protect piping plover nesting habitat?

Piping plovers are a critically endangered shorebird. There are fewer than 40 breeding pairs in Nova Scotia, so each individual bird is very important. Their population has declined by more than 25% since 2001, largely due to human activity.

Piping plover photographs by Jason Dain. Click to enlarge.

“Piping Plovers depend on dynamic, healthy coastal ecosystems. Key challenges to the recovery of this small shorebird include habitat loss from coastal development, disturbances from recreation and motorized vehicles, predator pressures, and climate change.”

– Birds Canada

How would development affect these ecosystems?

Development on this particular site would cause irreparable harm to the unique geology, flora, and fauna that have developed over the past 10,000 years. Among other aspects, it would negatively affect:

  1. The hydrology (the movement, distribution, and management of water) of Owls Head Provincial Park
  2. The health of eelgrass beds and subsequently the larger marine ecosystem. You can read about how the marine environment would be affected by development, here.
  3. The wetlands, which would have to be destroyed in order to develop the site
  4. The globally rare coastal broom crowberry ecosystem

For more information:

How Golf Courses Would Jeopardize Important Marine Ecosystems
Report on the Ecological Value of Owls Head Crown Land: More Findings
Report on the Ecological Value of Owls Head Crown Land: Conclusions

Why is it important that Nova Scotia protect more coastal land?

“Coastal ecosystems are among the most productive yet highly threatened systems in the world. These ecosystems produce disproportionately more services relating to human well-being than most other systems, even those covering larger total areas [yet they] are experiencing some of the most rapid degradation and loss.”

– Millenium Ecosystem Assessment, Marine and Coastal Ecosystems & Human Well-being
  • Owls Head is a representative coastal landscape. Coastal ecosystems are underrepresented in Nova Scotia’s protected properties.
  • More and more Nova Scotians are losing public access to our shores and beaches.
  • National and international targets both call for the conservation of 10% of coastal and marine areas by 2020 (Department of Fisheries and Oceans).
  • Read more here.

Why are people concerned about pesticides from golf courses? Aren’t pesticides banned in Nova Scotia?

This is an excellent question. Nova Scotia’s “Non-essential Pesticides Control Act” was passed on May 11, 2010. However, golf courses are exempt from the pesticide ban. The distinction lies in what is considered an “essential pesticide.” The bill states:

(4) This Act does not apply to a person who uses, sells or supplies a pesticide for

(a) forestry activities;
(b) agricultural activities or
(c) a golf course

– Non-essential Pesticides Control Act

If any wetlands were left after the blasting and infilling necessary to develop the site, the wetlands would be harmed by pesticides and fertilizers, which would upset the natural nutrient balance.

These negative effects could impact the marine ecosystem, too. Pesticides, fertilizers, and sedimentation can all adversely affect the offshore eelgrass beds.

Marine biologist Dr. Kristina Boerder explains, “For a large development such as golf courses, the construction and subsequent run-off from the land as well as increased nutrient loads all have the potential to negatively impact these ecosystems.” Researchers from Saint Mary’s University concur:

“Soil would have to be trucked into the site in order for it to support any turf-forming grass species associated with a golf course […] Even with mitigating factors put in place, environmental impacts from these activities [blasting, excavation, and infilling] are likely to affect water quality, including the marine environment. Nearby Owls Head are eelgrass beds that are extremely sensitive to water quality from runoff and to smothering by sedimentation.”

Biologists Caitlin Porter & Dr. Jeremy Lundholm

To learn more about how golf courses would jeopardize important marine ecosystems, please click here.

What is the provincial government’s role?

  • Owls Head Provincial Park and other properties of high conservation value were slated for protection through the 2013 Our Parks and Protected Areas Plan. The plan was based on conservation science as well as extensive consultation with citizens, industry representatives, and the Assembly of Nova Scotia Mi’kmaq Chiefs.
  • On March 13, 2019, the government removed Owls Head Provincial Park from the Parks and Protected Areas Plan through a secret minute letter. This was done without any scientific basis, public consultation, or public notice.
  • After the government secretly delisted the property, it put off updating sites and documents, making it appear to the public that Owls Head Provincial Park was still protected.
  • The public would still be unaware if not for the Freedom of Information Request and investigative journalism by CBC’s Micahel Gorman, whose initial story is available here.
  • Despite repeated requests, the Letter of Offer and the developer’s plans were never voluntarily shared with the public.
  • The provincial government lobbied the federal government for the adjacent (federally owned) land parcel, on behalf of Lighthouse Links Development Co.

“In the matter at bar, the Minister (or the T&PB) acted in a manifestly unfair manner by removing Owls Head Provincial Park from the PAPA Plan and entering into an agreement to sell the public land, in absence of any “open and visible actions, where the public is informed of the proposed action and has substantial opportunity to respond to the proposed action before a final decision is made.”

Applicants’ Pre-Trial Brief (paragraph 148)

But I heard Owls Head wasn’t protected?

Owls Head Provincial Park has a 45-year history of promised protections. Successive governments, dating as far back as the 1970s, promised to protect the site, which has been repeatedly recognized for its high conservation value. Until it was secretly delisted, Owls Head Provincial Park had interim protection through Our Parks and Protected Areas Plan and managed as a provincial park reserve.

Nova Scotia Supreme Court Justice Kevin Coady agreed that the public “had every reason” to believe that Owls Head Provincial Park was a designated provincial park.

“The evidence on this Motion clearly establishes that Owl’s Head was portrayed to the public as a Provincial Park. Government documentation and maps, going back as far as 1978, refer to the area as “Owl’s Head Provincial Park”. Further, it was managed by Lands and Forestry to maintain its reserve status. The public had every reason to assume Owl’s Head was a Provincial Park and, therefore, attracted protections not available on Crown lands.”

Bancroft v. Nova Scotia (Land and Forestry) 2020 NSSC 214Interlocutory Decision, Page 3

Could this happen to other lands with “proposed or pending” protection?

Unfortunately, yes.

Nearly half of what Nova Scotians consider provincial parks aren’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.

When we include wilderness areas and nature reserves, the number of properties waiting for formal protection jumps to almost 200.

When it comes to these vulnerable properties, “the exact same state that befell Owls Head could potentially happen,” explains lawyer Jamie Simpson, who is representing the applicants. Furthermore, “we have no assurance that the department would let the public know that a sale was pending.”

View Nova Scotia’s Interactive Parks and Protected Areas Map

How can we stop this from happening to other undesignated provincial park reserves, wilderness areas, or nature reserves?

It’s unfair to Nova Scotians that strengthening a site’s protected status involves public consultations and scientific assessment, but removing a property slated for protection does not. As we’ve learned, the government can do so without even notifying the public.

The Owls Head Act, introduced by the NDP, deals with this very issue.

“Our Owls Head Act says that whenever there is a piece of Crown Land in Nova Scotia that is pending protection as a wilderness area, or as a park, or as a nature reserve, that that pending protected status cannot be rescinded by the government without there being a process of public engagement, public consultation, and the sharing of public information. […] Because after all, that land was put on the protected list, in the first place, as a result of extensive public consultation.”

NDP Leader Gary Burrill

Once a wilderness area is formally designated, it cannot be secretly delisted. If the government wanted to delist a designated wilderness area, the Wilderness Areas Protection Act would ensure a public debate.

The government is currently accepting public feedback about potentially designating 12 provincial parks and wilderness areas. We encourage you to learn more and submit your feedback, here.

How would the sale and development affect the local community?

  • Lighthouse Links has estimated that it would take approximately three years to compete the first golf course
  • Construction of the proposed golf & residential community would severely disrupt everyday life in Little Harbour and all along the Eastern Shore
  • Development at the site would cause incessant noise. Dust and exhaust fumes would lower air quality
  • Weeks of dynamite blasting would be required to destroy the granite ridges.
  • It has been estimated (by golf course development experts familiar with the property) that it could require approximately 20,000 – 30,000 truckloads of fill and topsoil for a single golf course
  • That truck traffic would also congest traffic, lengthen commute times, and severely affect the state of public roads in Little Harbour and beyond
  • Property taxes will likely go up
  • It will become harder to buy land (prices will go up, residents will be outbid)
  • It is unknown how this will affect the local water table.

Why do some people care when they’re not from the community?

“I’m from the South Shore and I do not presume to speak for the community of Owls Head / Little Harbour. However, the issue over the sale of this land is about so much more than a localized community problem. The land is Crown land, land that according to the Nova Scotia website is owned by everyone who lives in Nova Scotia. Negotiations for the sale of this land have been conducted in secret between two Americans and our government. The land and the waters along the shore constitute “globally rare” ecosystems that stand to be destroyed by development.

In short, this issue is emblematic of the disregard for environmental health that has pushed the world into an environmental crisis. We should all be concerned and we should all do what we can to slow and maybe stop this headlong rush toward environmental and social catastrophe. I was at the rally because I have grandchildren and I want them to have a world where plants cling to rocks that were given form by glaciers ten thousand years ago and a world in which meadows of seagrass nurture creatures that live in the sea.”

– Peter Barss, Save Owls Head supporter

Does the ‘Save Owls Head’ movement oppose all development?

Not at all – we are strongly in favour of responsible and sustainable development. We support investing in jobs and infrastructure along the Eastern Shore. We believe that we can (and should) protect critical ecosystems while adding revenue through eco-tourism.

Politicians have strategically mischaracterized this issue as “Jobs vs. Environment.” This is simply not the case; it is a tactic to divide communities and deflect responsibility.

What does the ‘Save Owls Head’ movement support?

The following is a statement from group co-leader Christopher Trider. His statement encompasses the wider desires of many who support saving Owls Head Provincial Park.

  • We support the completion of the Eastern Shore Seaside Park System that includes:
    • a natural environment park with low impact walking trails and coastal access at Owl’s Head,
    • destination camping and lakefront public day use at Lake Charlotte,
    • improved public access to wilderness canoeing and hiking.
  • We support the development and implementation of a comprehensive economic development model for the Eastern Shore that:
    • includes ecotourism
    • provides year-round sustainable employment
    • protects the world-class natural resources and beauty of the area
  • We support transparency, honesty, and integrity in government.
  • We support investment in the renewal and improvement of the public facilities at Clam Harbour Beach.
  • We support the protection of globally rare ecosystems and endangered species.
  • We support the Parks and Protected Areas Plan, as announced and as a public policy document that includes Owl’s Head provincial park [#694, pp.54]
  • We support investment in the infrastructure to restore and develop public access at Long Beach, East Chezzetcook as part of a broad program of public investment aimed at improving the public outdoor recreation, education and tourism opportunities along the Eastern Shore.
  • We support the Nature Trust, conservation groups and private individuals involved in the 100 Wild Islands project.
  • We support the establishment of the Eastern Shore Islands Wilderness Area.
  • We support entrepreneurs and businesses that want to develop and grow a sustainable, year-round green economy along the Eastern Shore.

– Christopher Trider

Christopher Trider worked for DNR (now known as Lands and Forestry) for 21 years. One of Christopher’s key roles with the provincial government was to assess coastal properties that the province might acquire. In his own words:

“I know how hard they are to find, I know how hard they are to come by. I know how important these properties are for the long-term public good.”


Christopher is one of the administrators of the Facebook page dedicated to saving Owls Head Provincial Park.

What Can I Do to Help?

This movement depends on the passion and persistence of concerned citizens like you. Please visit our Take Action page for some suggestions on how you could get involved.

Disclaimer of Sorts: Our answers above are based on historical records, government documents, scientific articles, and scientific studies. We make an effort to update this page when new information comes to light through Freedom of Information Requests and the judicial review.

Accuracy is very important to us, so please email our content editor (lindsay@saveowlshead.org) should you spot an error.

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