“Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot,
Nothing is going to get better. It’s not.”

― DR. SEUSS (The Lorax)

Short and Sweet

You don’t need to be a science whiz or a brilliant writer in order to stand up for the environment. You just need to make your voice heard.

A few heartfelt lines can make a powerful statement—especially if you include a beautiful photo of Owls Head Provincial Park along with your message.

Make sure to clearly state your question and/or request at the beginning and the end of your email. And remember to always be respectful in all communications.

Not Sure Where to Start?

Check out our points for inspiration and see below for the information to back them up:

  • In the midst of the climate crisis, it’s more important than ever to protect carbon sinks (including the park’s bogs, salt marshes, and the coastal eelgrass meadows that border the park)
  • The secret government process to delist and offer to sell Owls Head Provincial Park jeopardizes ~125 other properties across the province that are still awaiting designation
  • Owls Head Provincial Park has a long history of promised protections, dating all the way back to the Eastern Shore Seaside Park System in the 1970s
  • We can invest in a better way forward by finally completing the Eastern Shore Seaside Park System and making the Eastern Shore a nature tourism destination
  • Only around 5% of Nova Scotia’s coastline is public and protected. Owls Head Provincial Park offers the opportunity to protect over 5 miles of continuous coastline
  • Owls Head Provincial Park is a biodiverse park property that contains a wildlife corridor, habitat for endangered species, and multiple species of conservation concern
  • Owls Head Provincial Park contains a globally rare ecosystem (coastal broom crowberry ecosystem)
  • The coastal eelgrass meadows support local fisheries, protect biodiversity, and absorb huge amounts of carbon.
  • Eelgrass is one most valuable ecosystems in the world, with ecosystem services estimated in excess of $20,000 per hectare, per year.

The government orchestrated three years of secrecy, surreptitiously removed Owls Head Provincial Park from Our Parks and Protected Areas Plan, entered into a clandestine deal to sell park land to an American billionaire, scrubbed government websites of references to Owls Head Provincial Park, caused a deep division in the local communities, and allowed the “public consultation” about the sale to be led by the developer—not the government. Every step of the way, this process has been highly flawed. It’s not only unfair to Nova Scotiansit’s unjustifiable.

Lindsay Lee

Honouring the Promise

“The concept of an Eastern Shore Seaside Park System was unanimously approved-in-principle by local community representatives on May 1, 1975. This proposed concept was the product of co-operative efforts by the Nova Scotia Department of Lands and Forests, Provincial Government, public participation advisors, and elected citizen representatives.”

Eastern Shore Seaside Park System: Citizen Representative Committee Brochure

Owls Head Provincial Park was identified as Tier 1 (top priority) conservation land through the Colin Stewart Forest Forum process.

“Tier 1” areas are those of highest priority and conservation value […] Most Tier 1 areas 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.”

Colin Stewart Forestry Forum Final Report

Owls Head Provincial Park was included in the 2013 Our Parks and Protected Areas Plan, which was based on extensive consultation with citizens, industry representatives, scientists, and the Assembly of Nova Scotia Mi’kmaq Chiefs. All of the properties were chosen for their outstanding conservation values.

In contrast, Owls Head Provincial Park was removed from Our Parks and Protected Areas Plan through a confidential minute letter, without any scientific basis, public consultation, or notice.

Please see the timeline of Owls Head Provincial Park for more information.

Graphic Design by Helen Michel

A Dangerous Precedent

If the secret delisting and proposed sale of Owls Head Provincial Park are allowed to proceed, it will jeopardize parks awaiting designation across the province. There are approximately 125 sites from Our Parks and Protected Areas Plan that are still awaiting designation. In many cases, citizens have no idea that these “provincial parks,” “nature reserves,” and “wilderness areas” aren’t formally protected.

Protected areas are many things: they are havens for wildlife, they are biodiversity hotspots, they are carbon sinks, and they are recreation areas for Nova Scotians and tourists alike. 

“It should go without saying, but Nova Scotia’s network of protected areas should not be an à la carte menu for developers.”

Lindsay Lee, Eastern Shore Forest Watch Association
Graphic design by Helen Michel, Owl Painting by Kenn Kaufman

Wrong Land, Wrong Project, Wrong Process

“Please do not delist protected areas without the same sorts of extensive and prolonged public processes that were conducted to list them in the first place.”

Dr. Karen Beazley

“[N]ot only did the Minister and the T&PB [Treasury and Policy Board] fail to seek and consider public input concerning their decisions, but they purposely kept the decisions and the decision-making process hidden from public view.”

Applicants’ Brief (Paragraph 185)

The government purposely didn’t inform the public about:

  • The request to remove Owls Head Provincial Park from Our Parks and Protected Areas Plan
  • The Treasury and Policy Board’s decision to approve Minister Rankin’s request
  • The proposal to sell Owls Head Provincial Park to a private developer
  • Minister Rankin entering into the Letter of Offer with the developer

In an unprecedented move, the NS government sanitized its own websites of references to Owls Head Provincial Park after Michael Gorman broke the story of the secret delisting and proposed sale.

The fact that the government only consulted with the prospective developer—not the public—seems to contradict the very spirit of Our Parks and Protected Areas Plan:

The plan’s success has been authored by you: Nova Scotians committed to protecting and conserving our beautiful province for future generations. It builds on extensive consultations over the last several years involving members of the public and Nova Scotia’s Mi’kmaq community, which helped identify potential lands for protection, and the legislative and policy initiatives necessary to ensure that future generations will also enjoy them.

Our Parks and Protected Areas: A Plan for Nova Scotia (page 5)

Unceded Land

Owls Head Provincial Park is in Mi’kma’ki, the ancestral and unceded territory of the Mi’kmaq People.

But at the behest of an American billionaire, the provincial government secretly—and intentionally—removed Owls Head Provincial Park from Our Parks and Protected Areas Plan without consulting with the Mi’kmaq.

When you truly respect the opinions of others, you act with integrity and transparency—you consult with those individuals first.

“I’m here for the water, I’m here for the land, and I’m here for the bear and all the fauna and the fish and everything. So people, don’t give up. We’re going to defeat them. We’re going to win and Owls Head will be protected because we are going to make sure of it.”

Mi’kmaw Grandmother Elizabeth Marshall

Preserving “Canada’s Ocean Playground”

Representative coastal landscapes like Owls Head Provincial Park are underrepresented in Nova Scotia’s conservation portfolio. In “Canada’s Ocean Playground,” only around 5% of our coastline is publicly owned and protected for future generations.

The natural beauty of our coastlines attracts visitors from all over the world. Irreparably harming the environment of Owls Head Provincial Park will also destroy opportunities for eco-tourism, which could offer great economic potential without harming the environment.

“Coastal ecosystems are among the most productive yet highly threatened systems in the world. These ecosystems produce disproportionately more services relating to human well-being than most other systems, even those covering larger total areas, but are experiencing some of the most rapid degradation and loss.”

Millennium Ecosystem Assessment, “Marine and Coastal Ecosystems & Human Well-being”

“Coastal heathlands add diversity to the mostly forested landscape of Nova Scotia and provide habitat for rare species,” explains Christopher Trider. Read more

“Ecologically, Owls Head is globally significant. Intact temperate coastal barrens ecosystems are globally rare, and mainly remain in our region. As such, we have an extra obligation to the world to safeguard these ecosystems.”

Dr. Karen Beazley

 

Photo by Peter Copus

Nature Conservation is the Future

Nova Scotia’s current percentage of protected land (~13%) falls short of national (Canada’s Pathway to Target 1) and international conservation goals by a large margin.

The U.N. and the Government of Canada have already committed to:
17% land protection by the end of 2020
25% by 2025 and
30% land protection by 2030.

These goals are based on science and are vital to protecting biodiversity.

Tim Houston’s PC government has committed to protecting at least 20 percent of the province’s land and water for nature conservation by 2030 and implementing the ~125 sites remaining from Our Parks and Protected Areas Plan (page 117 of Solutions for Nova Scotians). There is no better place to start than stopping the sale and formally protecting Owls Head Provincial Park.

Ecological Life-Support: Protecting Biodiversity

“We are in the midst of both climate and biological diversity (extinction) emergencies, wherein we are at or beyond planetary thresholds for being able to recover. Such intact ecosystems as Owls Head are our ecological life-support systems. We need them in order to survive as a species, as do the other species with which we share this land, many of which are endangered.”

Biodiversity is critical to maintaining healthy ecosystems as well as protecting human health.

Halifax’s Green Network Plan identifies an “essential corridor” between Owls Head Park and Tangier Grand Lake Wilderness Area. Also known as a green corridor or wildlife corridor, it is vital for wildlife and biodiversity.

These corridors can mitigate certain effects of habitat fragmentation. Enabling individual animals to move between protected areas allows them access to more resources, increases biodiversity (by preventing inbreeding), and reduces zoonotic diseases.

“Owls Head contains a globally rare coastal habitat ecosystem that is home to several species of conservation concern.”

Biologist Bob Bancroft

The beloved piping plover is endangered, both provincially (under Endangered Species Act) and federally (under the Species at Risk Act). Research is still ongoing, but over 90 species of birds have been recorded so far, including endangered barn swallows. To learn more about the bird species of Owls Head Provincial Park, click here.

CPAWS NS also recorded a rare sighting of an endangered leatherback sea turtle.

“This is a species in trouble […] There’s been a 70 per cent decline in this population globally, and the population is continuing to head in the wrong direction.”

Chris Miller of CPAWS NS, about the leatherback turtle sighting

Broom Crowberry

Scientists from St. Mary’s University (Ecology of Plants in Communities Lab) have been studying coastal barrens for 15 years. They’ve determined that Owls Head Provincial Park is home to a globally rare coastal Broom Crowberry (Corema conradii) plant community.

“Our years of data reveal that Owls Head is ecologically unique and of importance to biodiversity conservation […] Broom Crowberry is endemic to northeastern North America, meaning this species can be found nowhere else in the world. In Canada, this plant only occurs within the Maritime Provinces and Quebec and within that limited range, Broom Crowberry is only common in Nova Scotia. If our province does not make an effort to protect this species, there will be no other opportunity elsewhere to protect it.”

Biologists Caitlin Porter & Dr. Jeremy Lundholm

Ecosystems Services

The Millenium Ecosystem Assessment defined ecosystem services as simply, “the benefit that people obtain from ecosystems.”

“Nature-based solutions, which protected areas represent, are critical to addressing the sister crises of climate and biodiversity, through safeguarding species, storing and sequestering carbon, cleansing water and air, and other ecosystem services.”

Dr. Karen Beazley

Owls Head Provincial Park is a biodiverse property with coastal heathlands, salt marshes and bogs, a freshwater lake, estuaries, beaches, and over 5 miles of coastline. It is bordered by coastal eelgrass beds. These different ecosystems provide important ecosystem services, which benefit nature as well as humans.

Eelgrass (a type of seagrass)

“Thanks to the ecosystem services that seagrass provides, the value generated by seagrass is among the highest of any habitat in the world. And it’s been estimated in excess of $20,000 per hectare, per year.

Dr. Boris Worm

“Seagrass meadows protect our coasts from high-energy waves from the ocean,” explains seagrass researcher Sarah Joy Bittick. “This protection is especially important during storms; without it our coastal towns and cities would not exist.”

“Both [eelgrass and rockweed] are so-called ‘ecosystem engineers.’ This means that these species create a special habitat, much like trees on land: a habitat in which other species can live, feed, spawn and hide. This, in turn, affects a whole range of species, from small invertebrates (like mussels and clams) to crustaceans (such as lobster and crabs), to fish (such as herring, juvenile salmon, and some flatfish).”

Dr. Kristina Boerder

Marine Biologist Dr. Kristina Boerder elaborates:

Rockweed and eelgrass beds provide ecosystem services, which are defined as benefits to humans. These benefits include:

  • Protection from coastal erosion by slowing down waves and currents and stabilizing sediment
  • Providing oxygen and nutrients
  • Enhancing water quality
  • Absorbing and storing carbon, which helps to mitigate climate change
  • Providing important habitat for many other species like fish, crustaceans and invertebrates such as scallops. These species feed, hide and spawn in these habitats. Eelgrass beds provide a ‘nursery habitat’ to young fish by providing food and shelter from larger predators.
  • This, in turn, supports healthy fisheries, a reason why seagrass beds have been declared ‘Essential Fish Habitat.’

Wetland Ecosystems:

“Our data show that at least 28% (and up to 51%) of the area of Owl’s Head Provincial Park is wetland. The largest area of these wetlands consists of interconnected and biodiverse bog wetlands that occur in mostly linear shaped features distributed across the entire area of the site.

Biologists Caitlin Porter & Dr. Jeremy Lundholm

Some Excerpts from Nova Scotia Wetland Conservation Policy:

“Nova Scotia’s wetlands provide an estimated $7.9 billion worth of benefits in ecosystem services to Nova Scotians annually, according to a GPI Atlantic study on the province’s water resource values.”

“GPI Atlantic (Genuine Progress Index for Atlantic Canada) estimates that the remaining salt marshes in Nova Scotia provide over $400 million worth of ecosystem services to Nova Scotia communities each year, including flood and erosion control and infrastructure protection from storm surges.”

“GPI Atlantic estimates that wetland loss to development in Nova Scotia equates to about $2 billion annually in lost ecological services like water purification,recharging drinking waters and enhancing fishery productivity.”

Ecosystem Services and Functions Performed by Wetlands (Excerpt from Nova Scotia Wetland Conservation Policy)

Wetlands provide or support a wide range of important ecological, social and economic functions and services in our watersheds that are beneficial to Nova Scotians. […] These include, but are not limited to:

  • Protecting human and ecosystem health by removing organic waste and bacteria and filtering excess nutrients (e.g., nitrogen and phosphorous), contaminants and silt from surface and ground water
  • Storing and sequestering carbon from the atmosphere, potentially moderating climate effects
  • Protecting coastlines and coastal infrastructure from storm surges
  • Contributing to the water balance and drinking water supply by storing and releasing surface water and recharging groundwater reservoirs
  • Conserving biodiversity by providing important habitats for fish, wildlife and plants, often for rare or endangered species, such as our globally significant coastal plain flora You can read the whole list, here

We must prevent these ecosystems from being destroyed

“We believe that significant savings, not accounted for in KemperSports estimate, can be achieved by building a sand plant to convert the ledge that is removed during golf course construction to sand.” I.e., literally grinding the park as it now exists into biological, ecological, and geological oblivion.

Richard bell on the lighthouse links proposal

“Land and ocean are inextricably connected; impacts on one will impact the other. Changing or disappearing ecosystems on land will lead to the collapse of marine ecosystems and vice versa.”

Dr. Kristina Boerder

“Nearby Owls Head are eelgrass beds that are extremely sensitive to water quality from runoff and to smothering by sedimentation.” 

Biologists Caitlin Porter & Dr. Jeremy Lundholm

“Golf courses have significant environmental impacts due to changes in the natural landscape, elimination and alteration of plant communities and animal habitats, introduction of exotic species, invasion and trampling of sensitive and rare plant communities, alteration of wetlands and associated hydrology, run-off of turf-management chemicals (fertilizers, pesticides, and herbicides), eutrophication of water bodies, and others.”

Dr. Martin Willison

“The wetlands, ponds, lakes, and marine environment associated with Owls Head would be adversely affected by a golf course development. Data that we have collected at similar sites in the province show deterioration of water quality in surface runoff with the removal of barrens vegetation.”

Nova Scotia Wild Flora Society

“In addition, since wetlands are among the most productive and diverse of all the ecosystems on earth, losing them means reduced biodiversity through the loss of local populations of fish, wildlife and plants that depend on wetlands for their habitat or food.”

Nova Scotia Wetland Conservation Policy

“The bogs and coastal wetlands of Owls Head are beautiful, complex, pristine, and undervalued. Development of the site would completely, irrevocably, and utterly destroy the natural hydrology of Owl’s Head and impact surrounding marine waters,” explains Christopher Trider, who worked as a park planner with DNR for 21 years.

“Owls Head and adjacent sites are extremely wind-exposed and their situation along the high-energy Atlantic shoreline means they are both vulnerable to erosion and difficult or unfeasible to restore once their ecological integrity has been affected.”

Biologists Caitlin Porter & Dr. Jeremy Lundholm

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