LTE: Dangerous Precedent by Ian Guppy

Owls Head from the air

The year 2020 has been a tough one for Nova Scotia, and natural places have been where many of us have sought solace, especially those close to the ocean. Turning our precious coastal areas into golf courses — enclaves of privilege for wealthy Americans such as the one now exiting the White House — does not serve the interests of average Nova Scotians, the environment or the endangered species trying to live here.

Mr. Gilbert is intent on building his golf course, with its attendant heavy pesticide use, and razing the natural topography of this unique coastal landscape, let him do it on his privately-owned 138 hectares next to the intended Owls Head Provincial Park. That the Nova Scotia government secretly entered into a private sale agreement of public park land is an example of their cowardice and lack of accountability to the public who elected them, a public that needs green spaces like Owls Head now more than ever.

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Report on the Ecological Importance of Owls Head Crown land: More Findings

Broom Crowberry

Today, we are sharing in-depth excerpts from the Report on the Ecological Importance of Owls Head Crown land. Dr. Jeremy Lundholm, PhD, and Caitlin Porter, MSc, voluntarily provided this information to the court and have subsequently given us permission to share it online. You can find their unabridged report at the bottom of this page. If you’d prefer, you can read the post of their conclusions instead.

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Golfing in Pea Soup

The coastal location of Owls Head Provincial Park makes it unsuitable for a golf course for many reasons, including:

  • The need to protect the adjacent marine environment
  • Nova Scotians’ limited public access to the coast (roughly 5% is publicly owned)
  • Coastal erosion
  • The storm surges that are intensified by global warming
  • The incompatible climate of the site

Due to the weather along parts of the Eastern Shore, locals have been sceptical of the plan to establish golf courses at Owls Head Provincial Park.

“It is definitely colder and a lot foggier than in other places. Starts in April. When it is foggy, sometimes we can’t even see across the street to the neighours.”

Carol Ann MacPhee
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How Do We Put a Value on Owls Head?

Corema - Broom Crowberry

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.

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How Golf Courses Would Jeopardize Important Marine Ecosystems

Development on this particular site would cause irreparable harm to the unique geology, flora, and fauna that have developed over the past 10,000 years. It will also have adverse impacts on the offshore marine environment.

In Short:

  1. The proposed development would require large amounts of fill. Therefore, sediments would run into the marine areas, negatively affecting sensitive eelgrass beds and salt marsh habitats.
  2. Once established as golf courses, the use of pesticides and the threat of runoff of toxic chemicals (during rainfall events or through the site’s interconnected hydrology) would threaten these same marine areas.

“For a large development such as golf courses, the construction and subsequent run-off from the land as well as increased nutrient loads all have the potential to negatively impact these ecosystems.”

Marine Biologist Dr. Kristina Boerder

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Pause…

Owls Head by Kenn Kaufman

On February 19, 2020, CBC reported: “Owls Head land sale put on hold as potential buyers explore their options.” At first glance, this seems like cause for celebration. Right? Not so fast. The more you read, the less clear the situation becomes.

Ever since the story broke in December 2019, there has been clear and persistent opposition to the government secretly delisting Owls Head Provincial Park Reserve. No private development would preserve public coastal access or the site’s “natural beauty.”

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