Beloved New Reserve Inspired by Happy Old Memories

Barry Graham says he “gets goosebumps” when he visits Magnetawan Watershed Land Trust’s (MWLT) new conservation area, known as the Old Man’s Creek Reserve. The 240 acre property, with its landmark waterfall, and namesake waterway, was one of the first in Ontario to be transferred from American Friends to a Canadian partner organization.

The lands and waters encompassed by the Reserve have been part of Graham’s life since he was an infant, and his family brought him from Rome, Georgia to their summer home on Ahmic Lake nearly 70 years ago. Graham, who is the
president of the MWLT board and now a resident of Washington DC, recalls canoeing across the lake to Old Man’s Creek.

Many other Ahmic Lake cottagers and local residents of the local community share fond memories of exploring this beautiful property. So there was widespread consternation when a developer bought the land and secured approval for a subdivision on the creek; threatening Ahmic Lake’s pristine water quality and closing access to the iconic falls.

To avoid destruction of their venerated retreat, area property owners formed MWLT to pursue its permanent protection. They were inspired by Ted Rouse, who promised to acquire the land and donate it for conservation if his neighbors created a conservation organization that could assist with a cross-border gift.

So it was that MWLT was one of American Friends’ early transaction partners, and Ted Rouse an essential early supporter. In 2012, he donated the majority of the land that is now the Reserve to American Friends. Since then MWLT has been managing the property to both preserve its natural qualities and make it available for visitors, young and old, to enjoy.

Graham reports that the public access has won fans from around the community, including elected officials who view the preserved land and trails as an asset for tourism.

Thanks to the generosity of Rouse and major contributors who acquired other parcels in the Reserve, and the efforts of volunteers from both MWLT and American Friends, Old Man’s Creek and the lands that surround it will remain undeveloped and as beautiful as Graham remembers them.

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echo island

Echo Island, Ontario (Rainy Lake Conservancy)

Echo Island is small, but its permanent protection is big news in Ontario’s conservation community. The pioneering gift of a conservation easement over the island is likely to have a ripple effect throughout the Province and the Great Lakes region. The gift is the first known instance where an American donor gave an easement over property in Ontario to a US land trust.

The Philadelphia family that owns Echo Island donated the easement to American Friends of Canadian Land Trusts (“American Friends”). American Friends mission is protecting Canada’s natural heritage. The owners are committed to keeping Echo Island in its current, relatively undeveloped condition. Three generations have treasured Echo Island’s forest, shoreline and simple cabin over the last 50 years.

American Friends accomplishes its mission through partnerships with Canadian conservation entities, such as the Rainy Lake Conservancy which facilitated this innovative gift, and US taxpayers who own priority conservation lands in Canada. Conservancy leaders and the members of the family that donated the easement are aware that this transaction is a milestone in “cross-border conservation” – the term for donations of ecologically significant Canadian land by US taxpayers. They hope protection of Echo Island will inspire other American landowners and Ontario conservation organizations to take similar action to preserve the Province’s special environments.

The Conservancy works to protect the flora, fauna, water quality and scenic character of Rainy Lake which are so important to the local economy and indigenous communities of the area. Echo Island is one of nearly two thousand scattered throughout the 345 square mile (890 km2) lake straddling the border of Minnesota and Ontario. Voyageurs National Park is located on the southeastern corner of the lake on the US side of the Lake. The Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness is also within the Rainy Lake watershed as is the Quetico Provincial Park on the Canadian side.

Although the Echo Island easement is a first for Ontario, American Friends already holds easements in Nova Scotia and British Columbia that were also donated by American. In addition, in the less than four years since American Friends obtained the required tax status in Canada, it has received nine remarkable fee title gifts located in New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, Ontario and Manitoba.

For more information on the Rainy Lake Conservancy visit the website

Feel free to contact Sandra Tassel, Program Coordinator, for more information about American Friends or donating land or an easement in Canada 360-515-7171 or

Grand Manan, Bay of Fundy – Partnership with The Nature Trust of New Brunswick

In the days before Christmas a landmark conservation gift permanently protected a significant coastal property known as Seven Days Work Cliff on the beautiful island of Grand Manan in the Bay of Fundy. The Nature Trust of New Brunswick (NTNB) and a US charity called American Friends of Canadian Land Trusts (American Friends) formed a unique partnership that made this “cross-border” donation of land in the province possible.  Cross-border conservation conserves ecologically important Canadian land that is owned by preservation-minded Americans. At 23.8 hectares, Seven Days Work Cliff is best known for its spectacular sea cliffs that are home to birds of prey and a popular trail that overlooks the Bay.

“Much of the island’s coastline is privately owned and is being rapidly developed,” says Renata Woodward, Executive Director of NTNB. “The conservation of Seven Days Work Cliff means another natural area has been put aside for nature, as well as for residents of Grand Manan and visitors to enjoy for years to come.”

Located on the northeastern section of the island between Whale Cove and Ashburton Head, Seven Days Work Cliff consists of a highly visible and spectacular 80 metre sea cliff, as well as wetland and other natural vegetation. It is also an ideal place to see the birds of prey that nest and hunt along the cliff. The beloved cliff-top “Red Trail”, managed by the Grand Manan Trails Association and used by residents and visitors, also traverses the land.

“Grand Manan is a beautiful and environmentally fragile New Brunswick gem. Protecting its special landscapes is a high priority for NTNB, but land there is very expensive, especially if it has an ocean view,” says Woodward. “We are thrilled that the Americans who owned Seven Days Work Cliff wanted to conserve their property and were willing to donate it.”

NTNB formed the innovative partnership with American Friends to make this generous gift legally and financially feasible.  American Friends now owns the donated property and NTNB will manage it as part of their network of nature preserves.

 “Seven Days Work Cliff is a perfect demonstration of why Canadian land trusts created American Friends,” says Sandra Tassel, Program Coordinator for the Seattle-based organization. “Americans own priority conservation lands in many of Canada’s most scenic and ecologically sensitive places. We find that these landowners truly cherish their properties and are willing to give the land for preservation purposes if tax and legal obstacles can be overcome. The partnership between the Nature Trust and American Friends to protect Seven Days Work Cliff is a great example of what can be achieved through cross-border donations. We hope this will be the first of many New Brunswick projects.”

The features of the property inspired all of the parties involved in the pioneering project. The cliffs are a geological wonder, containing layers of rock formed during the enormous volcanic event that filled the Bay of Fundy with basaltic lava 201 million years ago. Today, the boulder-strewn beach below the cliffs attracts rock hounds who come to collect fine specimens of volcanic zeolites, quartz, jasper, agate and other minerals that fall from the cliff as it slowly erodes.

Seven Days Work Cliff is the 37th nature preserve managed by NTNB in the province and the third on Grand Manan.

Many generous contributions have been made to the project, including the land donors (who wish to remain anonymous), American Friends of Canadian Land Trusts, Davis Conservation Foundation, Grand Manan Trails Association, The William P Wharton Trust, EcoAction, and anonymous donors.

Mabou Highlands

Mabou Highlands, Nova Scotia – (Nova Scotia Nature Trust)

Nova Scotia Nature Trust (NSNT) assisted American Friends in the protection of 205 acres of old growth hardwood forest in the Mabou Highlands of Nova Scotia. Landowners Robert and Lee Anne Kinzer donated a conservation easement to American Friends, which preserves the forest and floodplain surrounding Mill Brook, which flows through the property, while also allowing them to continue owning and enjoying the property for years to come.

The property features diverse ecosystems characteristic of the Mabou Highlands, including extensive hardwoods, sugar maple and beech old growth hardwoods, and conifer forests. These forests types help expand the foraging range for animals largely resident in old growth forests. Wetlands at the western portion of the property support a population of beaver and provide good waterfowl habitat.

The Mabou Highlands Trails system passes through the property and includes the Bienn Alasdair and MacPhee Trails. This coastal area of the Mabou Highlands is important because it is one of only a few places in Nova Scotia where the coastline is not encroached upon by highways or secondary roads. NSNT has a long-term campaign focused on working with private landowners in the Mabou Highlands to protect, forever, this unique area. American Friends looks forward to continue working with NSNT on future projects to help further their conservation goals.

robinson woods

Robinson Woods, British Columbia – (Gabriola Land and Trail Trust)

If you love the unique natural splendor of the Gulf Islands, you have something new to celebrate. After more than a decade of effort on the part of many people, the very first BC “cross-border” conservation covenant has been completed. The cross-border descriptor explains that a generous, conservation-minded American donated the covenant to permanently preserve her land in Canada.

The breakthrough was the result of a partnership composed of the Gabriola Land and Trails Trust (GaLTT), American Friends of Canadian Land Trusts (American Friends) and a retired anthropologist from Illinois who has a longstanding love of BC, and Gabriola Island in particular. The project is known as Robinson Woods to honor donor Sally Robinson and the forest protected by her gift. The covenant, which Robinson donated to American Friends, protects a representative example of the Coastal Douglas Fir Zone, recognized by conservation biologists as among the most biologically unique and rich areas in Western Canada but also among the most imperiled ecosystems due to development pressure in places such as the Gulf Islands, including on Gabriola Island where Sally’s property is located.

As a result of GaLTT’s leadership and Sally Robinson’s dedication to preservation, a very valuable and scenic coastal property in the Gulf Islands will retain its character, with small building footprints, low rooflines and protection for the ecosystem and views. Unlike most conservation covenants, the one Sally donated to American Friends protects a place where someone lives and the public is invited to visit. As she planned, Sally’s gift demonstrates of how fragile island landscapes can be carefully and sensitively developed, while offering value to the broader community.   John Peirce, President of the GaLTT board said, “The big advantage of our partnership with American Friends is that we had the freedom, within broad bounds, to customize the terms of the covenant to address most of Sally’s concerns. Having done this process once, we are hoping to inspire other American land owners in the Gulf Islands will see possibilities for protecting their properties in return for significant tax breaks on both sides of the border.”

GaLTT and Sally worked together to open trails across her land in order to expand the Island’s impressive trail network. Gabriola residents and visitors alike now enjoy the preserved forest and access the sunny south-facing beach. The trails created by GaLTT as part of the Robinson Woods project provide recreation and non-motorized transportation opportunities.

People who come to Gabriola by boat and traverse Gabriola Passage will always appreciate the views from the popular Pylades Channel because the covenant prohibits new construction that would be visible from the water. Furthermore, the restriction on additional development protects the water quality in this sensitive marine environment by limiting new septic installations.
Arguably the most important impact of the Robinson Woods project, both in the immediate and long-term, is its demonstration of cross border conservation in BC. As Paul McNair, Executive Director of the Land Trust Alliance of British Columbia wrote, “The project on Gabriola Island will be an innovative and important demonstration of how these cross border partnerships can work to achieve the conservation objectives of BC residents.”  One of Sally’s goals for her gift to American Friends was to create a replicable model for conservation advocates throughout the province. Sally also achieved her other goal of being able to pass her beloved farm to her son and grandchildren, knowing its future is protected.
Photo: John Peirce, President of GaLTT and Craig Lee, a founder of American Friends, enjoy the native trees and view from Sally Robinson’s property, which is protected by a conservation covenant donated to American Friends.

MacKenzie Cove

MacKenzie Cove, Cape Breton, Nova Scotia – (Nova Scotia Nature Trust)

American Friends partnered with Nova Scotia Nature Trust (NSNT) on the donation of a 200-acre property on the north shore of West Bay, a southwestern arm of Bras d’Or Lake in Cape Breton, Nova Scotia. Donor Dan Livingstone made this generous gift of sensitive coastal habitat for the enjoyment of generations to come.

The property’s coastal habitat protects several rare and important communities; old growth hemlock forest, small lake edge ponds hosting rare plants, and ruptured barrachois ponds hosting habitat for the scarce ribbed mussel. Nearly four and half miles of shoreline on Bras d’Or Lake, which has high development threat, will remain undeveloped.

This project contributes to past and ongoing efforts of both NSNT and the Bras d’Or Preservation Nature Trust to secure intact natural areas that help to maintain the quality of this globally unique ‘inland sea’.

North Harbour

North Harbour Conservation Easement, Nova Scotia – (Nova Scotia Nature Trust)

North Harbour is American Friends’ second Nova Scotia conservation easement. The property is owned by Bostonian Merloyd Lawrence, who previously donated the Little Annapolis Lake easement, one of the first gifts received by American Friends. It is part of a growing network of protected properties in Cape Breton. Bonnie Sutherland, the Executive Director of NSNT, said this easement is an important contribution to the Nature Trust’s efforts to protect ecologically significant coastal lands. This gift is especially valuable because it is in the Aspy Valley Natural Landscape, a small eco-region featuring rare Acadian forest.

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