Another Cross-Border Breakthrough in Georgian Bay, Ontario

A rare potential conservation donation in Georgian Bay Ontario, with a common potential preservation pitfall, produced a successful gift and good news for landowners and land trusts.

Georgian Bay Land Trust (GBLT) had an opportunity to protect an undeveloped island featuring undisturbed stands of White Pine and Red Oak, open rock barrens and coastal meadow marsh. The rock barren and marsh are ideal habitat for two rare species: the Eastern Foxsnake and the Eastern Mississauga rattlesnake.

georgian-bay2This scenic, developable and valuable property was owned by nine individuals, some Canadian and some American, all descendants of five area property-owners who acquired the island more than 60 years ago. The Canadians controlled 60% of the total ownership and the Americans 40%. Although all of the owners agreed they wanted to protect the island there wasn’t an organization that could accept tax deductible donations from both Canadians and Americans.

GBLT’s leaders knew the American donors could give to American Friends. However, they also knew that the Canadians would have the best tax outcome if they donated to GBLT through Environment Canada’s Ecological Gifts Program (EcoGifts).

To make the donation financially realistic for all the owners, GBLT and American Friends agreed to each accept the share of title belonging to the donors from their respective country. Despite this being entirely new for both organizations and Environment Canada, all the parties’ efforts resulted in the first ever EcoGift of a Candian-American owned property. GBLT and American Friends now co-own the new preserve in the Point au Baril area.

Ian MacLeod, Chair of GBLT’s Land Protection Committee said,

“Finding a way for Canadians and Americans who share ownership of environmentally important lands to receive favorable tax treatment is a true breakthrough. This has paved the way for more conservation because Canadian/American co-ownership is fairly common on the Bay. We are extremely proud of this accomplishment and grateful to EcoGifts and American Friends for their commitment to Georgian Bay.”

For more information, please call Bill Lougheed, Georgian Bay Land Trust (www.glbt.org) 416-440-1519.

Gift of a Jewel on a Gem of an Island in New Brunswick

“If something happened to us, our land might be developed.” This concern motivated a couple from Vermont, who want to remain anonymous, to donate nearly 59 acres (24 hectares) on Grand Manan Island to American Friends, in a transaction facilitated by the Nature Trust of New Brunswick (NTNB). This is the first New Brunswick donation to American Friends.

The property is known as Seven Days Work Cliff, referring to the spectacular striated bluff that plunges to the surf of the Bay of Fundy. Some imaginative person was reminded of the biblical reference to God’s creation of the world.

The donors say their gift was inspired by the beauty of this parcel and the entire island, together with their commitment to the residents of Grand Manan. “We decided to protect the property while we are alive for the welfare of the island, and its future, not just for our pleasure of being in this beautiful place.”

“We loved walking the trails,” reminisces the wife, referring to the network maintained by the Grand Manan Trails Association. “As you pass through the forest, along the cliffs, you see the shining sea, the birds. You get a feeling of wilderness.” The beloved “Red Trail” traverses the edge of Seven Days Work Cliff, giving hikers views to the horizon, often replete with whales, seals and migrating raptors.

“It would be a blow to the island if our land was developed. Tourism is more and more important for the economy here. Trails are key to attracting visitors to Grand Manan. They don’t want to walk by house after house. It would be like being in suburbia.”

For their peace of mind the couple asked NTNB to steward their treasured land after they are gone. Because the donors are U.S. taxpayers, NTNB arranged for the gift to be made to American Friends.

“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 Renata Woodward, Executive Director of NTNB. “We are thrilled that the Americans who owned Seven Days Work Cliff wanted to conserve their property and were willing to donate it.”

The future of this treasure is as a natural, scenic refuge. “It feels good to know our land is protected. It would have been terrible to lose it.”

For more information, contact Renata Woodward, Nature Trust of New Brunswick, (506) 457-2398, naturetrust.nb.ca.

The Journey to Ontario’s First Cross-border Conservation Easement – Echo Island

When Sam White’s heirs donated a conservation easement over Echo Island to American Friends, they and the Rainy Lake Conservancy (RLC) completed a multi-year journey and reached a preservation milestone. Because this gift was the first of its kind in Ontario, the journey turned out to be a slow paddle rather than a fast ride in a speed boat! This is the story of how RLC, the donors and American Friends got there.

Everyone involved knew from the start there would be the legal equivalent of stormy waters as we developed an easement document acceptable to the Canadian Revenue Agency, the US Internal Revenue Service, and the Province. Fortunately we were a good paddling team and we arrived at our destination none the worse for wear. We, at RLC, are proud that we protected a rare piece of Ontario’s endangered White Pine habitat and charted a course for others who will embark on similar journeys to preserve special places in Ontario.

RLC works to conserve lands and waters treasured by Canadians and Americans. Our area includes the famous Boundary Waters Wilderness Canoe Area, Quetico Provincial Park, the Rainy Lake Islands Conservation Reserve and many other protected places.

A number of metaphorical shoals created by title issues, appraisal questions and government procedures slowed us down at times. Passion, patience and good humor kept us all going to the end.

Having survived our maiden voyage, we are now in the process of protecting 3 more properties on Rainy Lake with American Friends. It has been rewarding to work with such professionals. They are first and foremost individuals committed to conservation, a shared goal that drives land trusts to venture into uncharted waters!

Dale and Phyllis Callaghan, Rainy Lake Conservancy

Dale and Phyllis Callaghan, Rainy Lake Conservancy

For more information, contact Dale and Phyllis Callaghan, Rainy Lake Conservancy, info@rainlakeconservancy.org.

Little Island Protected, Big Ontario Conservation Impact

Echo Island is small, but its permanent protection can have a major impact on cross-border conservation in Ontario. This conservation easement donated to American Friends is the first known instance of an American donor giving an easement over property in Ontario to a U.S. land trust. The gift provides a land protection road map for the many other American owners of priority conservation properties in the province.

Generations of the White and Wallis families have cherished echo island and rainy lake.

Generations of the White and Wallis families have cherished echo island and rainy lake.

The Rainy Lake Conservancy (RLC), a small all-volunteer Canadian charity, facilitated the gift from the White family, originally from the Chicago area. Three generations have cherished Echo Island’s forest, shoreline and simple cabin over the last 50 years. Desire to both have the retreat serve future generation of their family and to retain the pristine quality of Rainy Lake motivated the donors to make this pioneering gift.

Echo Island is one of nearly two thousand islands scattered throughout Rainy Lake’s 345 square mile area (890Km2) 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.

The conservation easement restricts future development, preserving the subject property and also reducing its market value. The latter outcome reduces Canadian capital gains taxes that are due when property is transferred from one generation to the next, whether the owners are Canadian or American.

echo-island-rlc3As a U.S. charity, contributions to American Friends are deductible against U.S. income, and can also reduce U.S. estate taxes. American Friends is a “prescribed done” in Canada, meaning that land and easement donations are effectively not subject to capital gains taxes. This special tax status granted by the Canadian government recognizes that successful preservation of large landscapes that are shared by Canada and the U.S., such as Rainy Lake, depends on the generosity of citizens of both countries.

Blazing a trail for Cross Border Conservation, B.C.

Over the last 50 years, Illinois resident Sally Robinson has witnessed huge changes in the Gulf Islands of British Columbia. Recently Sally made B.C. history when she limited the amount of future change that will occur on her 23-acre waterfront property on Gabriola Island, by donating a conservation covenant to American Friends.

Sally’s gift, which was facilitated by the Gabriola Land and Trails Trust (GaLTT), was the first of its kind in B.C. If other American landowners follow Sally’s lead, they can have a significant impact on the future of the Gulf Islands’ unique natural character because they collectively own over 13,660 acres.

Land prices in the Gulf Islands have soared over the three decades since Sally bought her old farm. Large and very visible houses increasingly mar the shores. Sally and her family worried about the future of her beloved B.C. retreat. Placing a conservation covenant over the land prevents development of the two other potential homesites. The reduction in Canadian capital gains taxes as a consequence of the donation makes it feasible for future generations to inherit and steward this special place.

The Douglas-fir forest, cobble beach, mature Arbutus and Garry Oaks, together with the spectacular piece of coast, made sally’s land a protection priority for GaLTT. She also granted a license to GaLTT to build a trail through the woods and to the beach access on her property, as part of the network GaLTT is creating all over the island.

Sally says there are many winners in this arrangement. “The tax savings helped defray the costs of creating the covenant, Gabriola has its trail, the property will be monitored by GaLTT when I am back in Illinois, and we also blazed a path through the tax tangle for other similarly motivated landowners to follow.” As she planned, Sally’s gift demonstrates how fragile island landscapes can be protected, while offering value to the broader community.

For more information contact John Peirce, Gabriola Land and Trails Trust, info@galtt.ca.

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 http://www.rainylakeconservancy.org/

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 info@afoclt.org

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.