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Nova Scotia's provincial parks aren't as protected as you may think

Updated: Mar 22

Victoria Welland CBC News - Jan. 1, 2023 Full article published here

West Mabou Beach Provincial Park includes unique sand dunes that are home to several nesting bird species that are threatened by coastal erosion and human interaction. (Tom Ayers/CBC)

Cabinet, natural resources minister have far-reaching discretion over fate of parks

The Provincial Parks Act gives the minister of natural resources and renewables a number of powers, including to "dispose of flora or fauna in a provincial park" and "grant a license, privilege or concession with respect to a provincial park" for up to five years.

Cabinet has even more sweeping powers, including to decrease the size of a park, terminate the status of a park, grant leases for park land and to regulate the use of lands in a provincial park.

Environmental lawyer Jamie Simpson said the act gives those individuals "a high degree of discretion" over what happens to a provincial park. Cabinet or the minister can decide, without public consultation or an act of the legislature, to allow any kind of development that they see fit.

Culture of supporting industry

Now retired, [Dale] Smith was the manager of parks planning from 1978 to 1998 and then the director of protected areas until 2001. He's spent much of his retirement promoting environmental protection and conservation.

Smith said in his experience, a culture of supporting forestry and other industry is "baked in" to the department.

"They're really just not supportive of protection. Officially they are, but when they're dragged along toward protecting an area or supporting it, you can see the heel marks," said Smith.

That's why he'd like to see management of provincial parks transferred to the Department of Environment and Climate Change.

... Another way to solidify the protection of provincial parks could be to amend the Provincial Parks Act to match up with other conservation areas, said Simpson.

Read the full article here.

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