How do we put a value on Owls Head Provincial Park?

There have been few valuations for rare plants, let alone globally rare plant communities. For example, a rare Shenzhen Nongke orchid is valued at $202,000 per plant. We would need to do a series of transects and plots at Owls Head Provincial Park to get an honest number of the rare plants and communities to put into the economic calculus of a ” balanced ” view.

“A mature tree can have an appraised value of between $1,000 and $10,000.” So let’s do a survey of all the ancient coastal white spruce stands at Owls head and put an average value of $2000 on the individual specimens, but let’s be fair and only value the trees that are 75-100+ years old, the ones impossible to replace in a lifetime.

We need an equation to calculate the value of the millions of gallons per year of clean water filtered through the coastal bogs and wetlands of Owls head annually into the adjacent marine waters, the documented nursery and breeding areas for commercial species. How much do we value these ecosystem functions?

We need to value the habitats and wetlands that will be destroyed and altered by the impacts of golf course development. These include sediment runoff, high nitrogen fertilizers and their associated algal blooms, and the broad-spectrum herbicides and fungicides applied on a regular basis to maintain speciality turf grasses. We better allow for human error, spills, spraying on windy days, storm events after applications, usual golf course stuff. You cannot just recreate or buy replacement large, undisturbed coastal heathland habitats, once they are gone, they are gone forever.

You also need a value for Owls Head Provincial Park’s role in connectivity as part of a system of regional protected areas that include Taylor Head, Clam Harbour Beach, Lake Charlotte Destination camping, inland wilderness areas, the 100 Wild Islands, and the Eastern Shore Islands Wilderness Area.

We need to value the hours of community meetings and public consultation invested to date in these important projects, in the Parks and Protected Areas planning process and the community planning for the Eastern Shore Seaside Park System.

The appraisal must factor in an increased value for Owls Head as a large remnant, undisturbed coastal ecosystem. The value increases with scarcity and uniqueness so it can’t just be about how many golf courses and house lots. You must consider the global losses of shoreline to development. They are not making these properties anymore, so their value increases exponentially as other natural areas are lost.

Sustainable community economic development does not have to destroy significant ecological areas. Golf courses can be built in areas that do not have a 45-year history of public commitment to protection. They can be built on private lands with ocean views that have soils, no rare plants, and are far enough away from coastal waters to mitigate the toxicity of the chemicals used in their maintenance.

Stop the sale. Save Owls Head.

Christopher Trider

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