Chris Miller, Executive Director of CPAWS-NS
November 24, 2021
Originally published here
K’JIPUKTUK/HALIFAX – The campaign to stop the sale of public lands at Owls Head Provincial Park has achieved a huge milestone.
CBC News is reporting that the company behind the proposal has officially withdrawn the letter of offer with the Nova Scotia government to acquire those public lands. See that article here.
“This is a major victory for the grassroots campaign to stop this land sale,” says Chris Miller, Executive Director of CPAWS-NS. “Delisting parkland is a red line that cannot be crossed.”
Now that the letter of offer has been withdrawn, the Nova Scotia government must take immediate steps to legally protect the public lands at Owls Head.
“Until the lands are legally protected, they remain vulnerable,” says Miller. “The only way for the Nova Scotia government to properly end this debacle is to put legal protection in place and they need to do that expeditiously.”
Because the Wilderness Areas Protection Act is currently the only piece of protected area legislation in Nova Scotia that prohibits the secret delisting of a designated protected area, this is the legislation that should be used to protect the public lands at Owls Head. The site should be added to the nearby Eastern Shore Islands Wilderness Area.
Public lands at Owls Head have been managed as a provincial park reserve by the Nova Scotia government for nearly a half-century. They are ecologically significant coastal lands that were also included within the Nova Scotia Our Parks and Protected Areas Plan, to be prioritized to receive legal protection.
That changed in 2019, when the Nova Scotia government secretly delisted Owls Head Provincial Park and signed a letter of offer to sell off the coastal parkland to a private developer, to turn it into golf courses and other development.
A huge public backlash ensued with a sustained grassroots effort to stop the land sale and to protect Owls Head. Visit the Save Owls Head website here.
“This outcome is the result of lots of work from lots of people who care about Owls Head,” says Caitlin Grady, Conservation Campaigner with CPAWS-NS.
Owls Head is an ecologically significant coastal property on the Eastern Shore that contains globally rare barren ecosystems, important wetland ecosystems, temperate rainforest, productive estuaries, habitat for migratory birds, and is a gateway to the Eastern Shore Islands.
“We’ve explored Owls Head by foot, by sea kayak, and by snorkel and worked with incredible volunteer teams to complete bird and eelgrass surveys,” says Grady. “Each experience has confirmed the tremendous value this park holds for conservation and for the community.”
The federal government also owns a piece of land at Owls Head. They pulled out of a land deal with the Nova Scotia government soon after the secret delisting was exposed. The federal property has now been redirected toward legal protection through the Canadian Wildlife Service.