Owls Head: It Takes a Village

Letter to the Editor
Contributed by Beverley Isaacs
The Eastern Shore Cooperator
January 23, 2021

Originally published here

To the Editor:

The McNeil/Rankin  “Sweetheart Deal for Owls Head” (Cooperator, December 2020) is an insult to all Nova Scotians, starting with Little Harbour residents like me.

Do they think we are a bunch of backward hillbillies? The citizens of Nova Scotia do not have to stand back and allow an American billionaire, Beckwith Gilbert, working behind closed doors with the former Minister of Lands and Forestry Iain Rankin, to destroy Owls Head Provincial Park and its rare ecosystem, all for just a few pennies.

Take the outrageously low selling price for hundreds of acres and miles of ocean front: $216,000. I paid more than that 6 years ago for less than an acre when we bought our property in Little Harbour. And Rankin let Lighthouse Links, Beckwith’s company, pay an appraiser to come up with this low estimate?

You just know that when you hear politicians start using the promise of jobs to divide a community, something bad is going on. And what kind of jobs are we talking about here? Seasonal low-wage jobs will not provide the income young people need to  purchase a home on the Eastern Shore—much less to purchase a home in the lavish residential subdivision that Beckwith intends on building to cover the cost of building the golf courses. At the minimum wage of $12.50/hr at 40 hours a week for 20 weeks, you gross $10,000. I can just see the young people running back to Little Harbour now.

If Beckwith is so concerned about the lack of job opportunities, why hasn’t he done anything over all these years when he’s been buying up property and land in Little Harbour? Why is it that the person he has looking after all of his homes and properties in Little Harbour is someone who lives over an hour away?

The other thing I dislike about politicians using the jobs argument is that it lets them hide the fact that Owls Head Provincial Park is Crown land. It belongs to ALL the people of Nova Scotia. Our officials ought to be acting on behalf of all of us, not an American billionaire.

And why aren’t our elected officials using science to guide their decision-making about the Park? Our Government has been using science to maintain the wellbeing of Nova Scotians through this pandemic, and they’ve been doing a better job than most other provinces. I haven’t heard Rankin or anyone else talk about having looked into the ecological value of the Park, even though there’s solid research out there about what a rare place it is.

It’s time to use science-based facts to save our environment, not just the opinions of an American billionaire and Iain Rankin, and anyone else who FEEL that grinding Owls Head Provincial Park  into dust is a good idea. The Old White Collar way of running our province has run its course. This Government will go down as one of the most secretive in provincial history. We need to change our way of thinking. Our Government needs more innovative minds to carry our Province through the ever-changing world. We need diversity, creativity, accountability and forthright minds to lead Nova Scotia into the future.

There is an old saying, “It takes a village to raise a child.” It is going to take more than a village to Save Owls Head/Little Harbour. We have over 3,800 members in our Facebook group to save Owls Head, all Nova Scotians have a voice, this land belongs to the citizens of Nova Scotia. Let’s stand together, stand for the future generations!!

Wholeheartedly,

Beverley Isaacs, Little Harbour

The Rick Howe Show: Liberal Leadership Candidates on Owls Head Provincial Park

Host Jordi Morgan interviews Randy Delorey, Iain Rankin, and Labi Kousoulis

January 19-21
The Rick Howe Show
News 95.7

One of these three Liberal leadership candidates will not only become the leader of the provincial Liberal party but also the new premier of Nova Scotia. Take a listen to their responses to environmental questions, including the fate of Owls Head Provincial Park.

Mr. Randy Delorey
January 19, 2021


Randy Delorey
Photo: RednozerCC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Question: Another specific issue is around Owls Head. What are your plans there, if you were premier?

Randy Delorey: Owls Head, I think I’d have to dig in a little more. Obviously, there’s some legal provisions in there that I’d have to check in – I believe they’re before the courts right now. In terms of the decisions around that, there’s also (I believe) a Letter of Offer agreement with a potential proponent, so I’d have to get some more information on that to determine what, if any, options are available going forward.


Mr. Iain Rankin
January 20, 2021

Iain Rankin, Photo from the Nova Scotia Legislature

Question: I’ve got a question from one of our listeners, who is concerned about the Eastern Shore’s native eelgrass meadows and the idea that this is something that is beneficial for the environment generally and it has to do with the selling of Owls Head Provincial Park – a piece of Crown Land that a remarkable number of people seem to be really captured with. So what’s your position on that piece of land and what you would do with it as premier?

Iain Rankin: I think it’s important when you’re a Minister to listen to local communities. And that’s what I did in this instance. There was a proposed project and a process to be followed. It’s still in the middle of the process for consideration. I did want to make sure there was a requirement for public engagement, which still hasn’t been approved (my understanding at the Department, not having been there for months now), Mi’kmaq consultation, and a real assessment for impacts for any potential project.

I can understand the passion of people that want to see land protected in this province; I share that passion. I’ve proposed protecting (like I said) over 200 sites, finishing the Parks and Protected Areas Plan. I think, in this instance, a lot of people believed that piece was already protected, so giving them the benefit of the doubt, it was not protected, it was on a list for potential protection and I think, as a Minister, you should be balanced. I wouldn’t support any project that would have any long-term adverse impacts to an ecosystem. But it is important to listen to communities when they put forward a potential project that would benefit the local economy.

Question: So are you planting yourself as undecided on this one? Because I didn’t get a real position on that, in terms of what you would do, as premier, what you would advocate for in terms of that piece of property.

Iain Rankin: You’re right; I haven’t made a decision because the process is still being followed. I am someone who believes in following a process. With respect to this area, there are some questions before the courts. So again, if there’s an economic opportunity in the local community, it’s our obligation, I believe, as a public servant, to listen to communities. But at the same time, I think I’ve made it very clear during this campaign and beforehand, my thoughts on the value of protecting nature.



Mr. Labi Kousoulis
January 21, 2021

Labi Kousoulis
Photo: Anatoli99CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Question: You mention areas of ecological value in your platform piece on your website, but missing is Owls Head, a piece of land that a number of people have written questions about. I put that to both of the other candidates for the leadership as well. What’s your position on that piece of land?

Labi Kousoulis: On Owls Head, there’s been a lot of talk in terms of the significance of it. There’s a very large group – a Save the Owls Head group – with 4,000 people, and they’re very passionate about it. What I’ve communicated to them, and I would communicate to all Nova Scotians, my background is not science; it’s finance. What I said I would do is look at bringing in independent scientists to look at the area. Because if it is an ecologically sensitive area – and they talk about how it was formed by the glaciers – then that is an area that we should ensure we have there for future generations.

At the same time, I’m all for business development and I would work with the proponent and look at a different area where we could build the golf course that they want to build. That would employ many people in that area (which is running higher unemployment). I’d be looking for a solution to satisfy both sides and the province would be there, working with both sides, to move that forward.

Parks and Protected Areas Network in HRM

Maps by Shanni Bale

Please click to enlarge.

Data sources:
Significant Species and Habitats Database (Incomplete), NSLNF (2007);
NS Landscape Resilience, S. Bale (2017);
Parks and Protected Areas Plan, NS Environment (2020);
NS Lands Proposed or Pending Protection, NSLNF (2020)

Caption:
Owls Head Provincial Park is a gem of Nova Scotia, containing a variety of ecosystems, including heathlands, salt marshes, bogs, freshwater lakes, and estuaries. This habitat diversity makes it a haven for at-risk species, including the Barn Swallow and Piping Plover. Owls Head Provincial Park had been awaiting protection for decades. However, in 2019, the NS Liberal government removed it from the ‘Pending Protected Area’ list so that this ecological treasure could be sold and developed. The fate of the park remains uncertain, but thousands of Nova Scotians continue to give their time, money, and energy to save it.

Premier Candidates Should Save Owls Head Provincial Park

It is out of that love that we are dedicating this issue to a plea for the people of Nova Scotia to stop our Liberal government from deliberately committing a terrible crime. The Liberals are doing the bidding of a wealthy American billionaire and his “Lighthouse Links” company who propose turning Owls Head Provincial Park into a gated billionaire bunker housing project for the ultra-wealthy, with a couple of golf courses on the side. The Liberals’ endorsement of this scam is an assault on both the body politic and the rocky bones of the body of the province itself.  

Continue reading “Premier Candidates Should Save Owls Head Provincial Park”

LTE: Betrayal of Trust by Lindsay Lee

Bill Black’s Jan. 2 column, “Rankin’s policies tack far to the left of McNeil,” includes a brief but untenable statement about Owls Head Provincial Park. “Noting the significant level of local support, he (Iain Rankin) believes that an environmentally sensitive proposal for a golf resort at Owls Head could be approved.”

It’s absurd to claim that an environmentally friendly golf course is possible in this location, as it would raze the biodiverse wetlands and rare plant ecosystems.

Moreover, Black and Rankin have both decidedly ignored the unprecedented betrayal of public trust, the absolute disregard for public consultation with Nova Scotians, and the dangerous precedent this sets for all of our green spaces.

Perceived “local support” cannot retroactively make secretly delisting a provincial park reserve OK. It’s premature to presume the level of local support, as the government has still not conducted any consultations, locally or provincially.

Continue reading “LTE: Betrayal of Trust by Lindsay Lee”