By Richard Bell
In a show of province-wide opposition to the government’s controversial decision to sell Owls Head Provincial Park, 23 groups submitted a joint letter to Premier McNeil on Tuesday, March 10 calling on the government to do three things:
- “Stop the sale of publicly-owned lands at Owls Head
- Protect Owls Head as a legally-designated protected area
- Fully implement the Nova Scotia Parks and Protected Areas Plan”
Opposition to the sale has been mounting since Michael Gorman’s CBC story on December 18th revealed the government had secretly agreed to sell Owls Head Provincial Park to a wealthy American who planned to build 3 golf courses on the site.
The group’s letter brings together many of the most significant province-wide environmental groups, including the Nova Scotia Association of Anglers and Hunters, the Nova Scotia chapter of the Canadian Parks and Wilderness Association (CPAWS-NS), and the World Wildlife Fund, along with a slew of local and regional groups like the Eastern Shore Forest Watch Association, Sackville Rivers Association, and St Margaret’s Bay Stewardship Association.
“People are very upset,” said Caitlin Grady, Conservation Campaigner for CPAWS-NS. “It’s unacceptable for the Nova Scotia government to go behind closed doors and delist ecologically-significant lands promised for protection. This letter sends a strong message that Nova Scotians won’t stand by and allow their public parks to be put up for sale.”
The groups raise three principal objections to the sale. First, they argue, contrary to the government’s claim, that “Owls Head is an ecologically significant area along the Eastern Shore that is deserving of legal protection. It contains a number of rare ecosystem types, as well as important habitat for migratory birds and species-at-risk. It is a key headland within the ‘100 wild islands’ ecosystem.”
Second, they point out that “very little of Nova Scotia’s coastline is publicly-owned and protected.” Overall, the government claims to have protected 13% of Nova Scotia. But the portion of protected coastline is far less, only 5%, so that losing Owls Head diminishes an already diminished amount of public access to the more than 7000 km of Nova Scotia’s coast.
And thirdly, the groups are “concerned about the secretive manner in which this delisting occurred.” Barbara Markovits, co-director of the Eastern Shore Forest Watch Association, was particularly disturbed by the government’s deceptive tactics. “I was shocked that the NS government reversed the decision to protect Owls Head Provincial Park in secret and without any public notice, let alone public consultation. This seems bizarrely out-of-step with successive governments’ long established practice of consulting Nova Scotians when making decisions about the protections of Crown lands.”
To read the press release and the list of all 23 signing organizations, click here.
[Photo: Murphys Lake on the northern border of Owls Head Provincial Park]