Hello everyone, I’m Jacob Fillmore, and it feels great to be eating again.
Thank you all for coming to this rally to show your support for Bob Bancroft and the Eastern Shore Forest Watch Association. Today, I’d like to talk a bit about Owl’s Head Provincial Park, and why I believe it should continue to be protected.
Owl’s Head, touted by the provincial government itself as a “globally rare ecosystem,” has significant biodiversity and ecological value, and is home to the critically endangered Piping Plover. Though there are believed to be fewer than 40 mating pairs left in Nova Scotia, Nova Scotia’s Recovery Plan for the Piping Plover deems that the recovery of the species is still feasible. This is because “The primary threats (…) can be avoided or mitigated.” However, one key challenge to the recovery is habitat loss from coastal development. If we want to protect the Plovers, we cannot develop Owls Head.
The plant life in this area is also worth saving too. The landscape of Owl’s Head is dominated by “Broom Crowberry.” This plant, though abundant at Owl’s Head, cannot be found outside of Eastern North America. There will be no opportunities to protect it elsewhere if we do not make an effort to protect it here. If we develop Owl’s Head, we risk doing irreparable damage to the future of this species. Obviously, Owl’s Head is worth protecting. The government knows this too.
In 1977, Owl’s Head appeared in the brochure listing areas due to become part of the Eastern Shore Seaside Park System.
A report released in 2009 by Nova Scotia Environment and the Department of Natural Resources called Owl’s Head a top priority for conservation. According to this report, most of these top priority lands are “truly irreplaceable, meaning that they represent the last opportunities to fill particularly critical gaps in the protected areas network, or to capture highly significant ecological features.”
In 2013, another report titled “Our Parks and Protected Areas: A Plan for Nova Scotia” was released. It claimed to build on the extensive consultations that yielded the previously mentioned 2009 report. This report compiles a list of “what are considered to be the best lands for protection” and it too included Owl’s Head. Even as recently as 2018, Owl’s Head Provincial Park appeared in the Halifax Green Network Plan.
In March 2019, Owl’s Head was quietly delisted for protection. After the story broke in December 2019, the provincial government removed the provincial park designation of Owl’s Head from its government website. However, they did a poor job of doing so, and you can still see the former boundaries of the park on the government’s own website.
The fact that it takes extensive consultations and decades for a park to receive formal protection is in itself shameful. But that the government can so easily, and in secret, undo all of the work that went into protecting such a site is even more so. No site designated for protection should be allowed to have its protection removed, least of all one with such high conservation value.
Thank you all again for being here.
Stop the Sale. Save Owl’s Head.
On April 1, supporters gathered outside the Law Courts in solidarity with judicial review applicants Bob Bancroft and Eastern Shore Forest Watch Association.
Jacob Fillmore is an activist who has been camping out in front of government buildings in downtown Halifax since December to raise awareness of the government’s inaction on key environmental issues. Before that, he was part of the blockade to protect the endangered mainland moose in Southwest Nova Scotia. Jacob Fillmore just ended a 23-day hunger strike, during which he called on the government to end clear-cutting on Crown Land.