LTE: Owls Head Provincial Park — It’s a Matter of Protecting Public Trust

Letter to the Editor
The Nova Scotia Advocate
Contributed by Lindsay Lee
February 13, 2021

View on the Nova Scotia Advocate’s website>

Concerns about government accountability are tempering public excitement about the province’s new protected areas announcement. 

Environmental organizations are rightly applauding the government’s stated intention to formally protect 20 properties. Expanding our network of protected areas is a necessary step to preserve valuable ecosystems, maintain habitat connectivity, and protect endangered species.

But the government has failed to protect something important: public trust. 

That’s why an overwhelming majority of the comments online reference one particular park… a park that wasn’t even included in the government’s announcement. When the Cabinet secretly delisted Owls Head Provincial Park, it not only jeopardized the park’s valuable ecosystems, it also jeopardized the public’s faith in our government.

We’ve since learned that nearly half of what we consider provincial parks aren’t legally protected parks at all. In June 2020, the Chronicle Herald reported, “Of 206 provincial parks in Nova Scotia, 102 are awaiting official designation.”

When we include wilderness areas and nature reserves, the number of properties waiting for formal protection jumps to almost 200. Like Owls Head Provincial Park, each of those sites was selected for its high conservation value. The fact that they have the same vulnerable status that Owls Head Provincial Park had before it was secretly delisted is causing concern across the province.

The government is proudly proclaiming itself to be a “leader in land protection.” But a loss of faith in the process has left many Nova Scotians underwhelmed and unconvinced. Our elected officials need to re-evaluate Owls Head Provincial Park before it permanently corrodes confidence in our government.

Owls Head Provincial Park had been slated for formal protection after decades of public consultations, dating back to the 1970s. In contrast, the government secretly removed it from Our Parks and Protected Areas Plan with absolutely no consultation (or notification).

Now, Nova Scotians are understandably confused as to why public engagement is necessary when enhancing – but not diminishing – a site’s protected status. That doesn’t mean that public consultation isn’t worthwhile. On the contrary, it means that every Nova Scotian should participate. The government of Nova Scotia needs to be reminded of how valuable the voices of its citizens truly are.

Nova Scotians are invited to provide their comments on the proposed provincial park and wilderness area lands.

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