The Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society has released a report card on Canada’s Progress in Protecting its Land and Ocean. CPAWS reports that Nova Scotia has made progress (albeit belatedly) on Nova Scotia’s Parks and Protected Areas Plan in the past ten years. But there’s a shadow hanging over the Nova Scotia government: the secret delisting and offer to sell Owls Head Provincial Park Reserve.
Nova Scotia is featured on page 58:
Nova Scotia has made considerable progress over the past decade creating new protected areas. Approximately 200 sites have received legal protection, with an additional 24 sites currently going through the public designation process. Within the past year, 91 sites have been announced for protection. This has increased the total amount of protected land in Nova Scotia by approximately 50% over the past decade. The Nova Scotia Our Parks and Protected Areas Plan, approved in 2013, identifies approximately a quarter million hectares of land for conservation. Most protected areas created in Nova Scotia, since then, are due to the implementation of this plan.
Over the past decade, numerous high-priority sites for conservation have been protected by the Nova Scotia government. These include Chignecto, Eastern Shore Islands, Wentworth Valley, Mabou Highlands, and Katewe’katik. Several other existing protected areas have been expanded, including Blue Mountain-Birch Cove Lakes and the Tobeatic. The Nova Scotia government and the federal government also collaborated to establish Sable Island National Park Reserve in 2013. This was the first national park created in Nova Scotia in more than a half century.
Despite progress creating new protected areas in Nova Scotia, missteps have occurred. The majority of sites within the parks and protected areas plan were supposed to be officially designated no later than 2015. Stalled implementation has left approximately 125 sites protected only through interim policies, and this has prevented progress toward more ambitious conservation targets. The Nova Scotia government has yet to identify sites to achieve 25% protection by 2025, and 30% by 2030, to align with federal conservation targets. The Nova Scotia government also made the serious error of secretly delisting Owls Head Provincial Park Reserve and attempting to sell-off these coastal public lands for a golf course development. Legislation in Nova Scotia must be strengthened to prohibit the delisting of protected areas without public debate.
The Nova Scotia government must prioritize Indigenous-led conservation. Insufficient progress has been made in embracing Indigenous protected areas and investing in Indigenous Guardians programs. Several encouraging steps occurred recently with the protection of Katewe’katik and Pu’tlaqne’katik in the traditional territory of Kespukwitk in 2020, but much work remains to support protected area governance and management models that prioritize Indigenous leadership, rights, and interests.
Over the past year, there has been an increase in protected area designations in Nova Scotia. This is welcome news, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic when people are eager to be in nature for their health and well-being. Fully implementing the parks and protected areas plan remains the critical next step for creating new protected areas in the province. An action plan is needed that prioritizes Indigenous-led conservation; restores landscape-level connectivity; and invests in private land conservation.