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Study says golf course would threaten rare plants, birds at Cape Breton's West Mabou Beach

Tom Ayers CBC News - Nov. 4, 2022 Full article published here

West Mabou Beach Provincial Park - Photo submitted by The Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society

Ecologists say a proposed golf course in West Mabou Beach Provincial Park would threaten rare plants and birds.

The resort developer Cabot Cape Breton has two 18-hole courses in nearby Inverness, N.S., and is eyeing the park for a third.

The company first indicated an interest in the area in 2018, but met with stiff resistance.

That's when the Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society decided to get involved, said Chris Miller, the Nova Scotia chapter's executive director.

"We anticipated that the golf course developers would take another run at West Mabou Beach provincial park, so we pre-emptively did some field work there to document the biodiversity," he said.

A 2019 study by Alain Belliveau of Acadia University, commissioned by the society, found the unique sand dunes and wetlands contained at least 17 rare plants and animals, including four birds that are listed under the provincial Endangered Species Act.

"Where you have rare ecosystem types, you're also going to get rare species, so in the case of West Mabou Beach provincial park, there's several different types of rare species in that relatively small geographic area," Miller said.

Developers should look elsewhere for a new golf course, he said.

Bob Bancroft, a retired provincial biologist and president of Nature Nova Scotia, agreed.

The Cabot Links and Cabot Cliffs courses in nearby Inverness should be enough, he said.

"They've already got two golf courses there," Bancroft said. "They can survive without a third."

Nature Nova Scotia is one of several environmental groups that has just launched a court case seeking a judicial review of new federal species at risk regulations.

Bancroft said the rules used to identify an entire beach as protected when endangered species, such as piping plovers, are found.

This year, the government changed that to reduce the protected area to the nesting site, something that will be difficult to enforce, said Bancroft.

That's a problem, because nesting birds typically move around depending on the tides and use the entire beach to forage for food, he said.

West Mabou Beach is under provincial jurisdiction, but Bancroft said it is one of the few places left that is safe for endangered birds.

"They should leave that protected beach alone, because the piping plover quite frankly need it and so do a variety of other species that are also on an endangered species list." Read the full article here.

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