Thanks to a donation of 171 hectares of land by two generous neighbours in Frontenac County, the Honourable Steven Guilbeault, Minister of Environment and Climate Change, announced Tuesday, Jan. 18, 2022, that Canada’s Ecological Gifts Program has reached an important milestone: Canadians have donated over one billion dollars worth of ecologically-sensitive land for the purpose of conservation since 1995.
The $1-billion milestone was reached when the two neighbours (who wish to remain anonymous) donated adjacent parcels of land to the Land Conservancy for Kingston, Frontenac, Lennox & Addington, resulting in the creation of a 171-hectare nature reserve.
“I think it’s really cool that what put Canada over the 1 billion mark was this donation by neighbours in our local area! It’s really neat that we hit that milestone right here in the Kingston area,” commented Mark Gerretsen, Member of Parliament for Kingston and the Islands. He offered a “special thanks” to the generous Canadians. “Their donation is helping us to protect more of Ontario’s natural spaces and species at risk. With help from the Land Conservancy for Kingston, Frontenac, Lennox & Addington, this nature reserve will be conserved not only for now, but for our children and grandchildren.”
The nature reserve, which is currently unnamed, protects remarkably diverse habitats that include mixed-age coniferous and deciduous forests, thin-soiled grassy ridgetops, rock outcrops and small cliffs, and a wide array of wetlands including fens, marshes, swamps, vernal pools, a large creek, and two large ponds. To date, 965 unique species have been identified within the nature reserve’s borders, including multiple species at risk, such as the Midland Painted Turtle, Snapping Turtle, Blanding’s Turtle, Eastern Wood-Pewee, Five-lined Skink and Monarch Butterfly.
For the purposes of the program, an “ecological gift” is a donation of land, or a partial interest right in the land, to an approved recipient organization. The landowner may choose to make a “fee simple donation” by donating the land outright to provide the maximum ecological protection and largest tax benefit. Alternatively, donors can choose to donate a partial interest with a conservation easement, covenant or servitude, maintaining the connection to the land while restricting the potential uses of that land in favour of conservation.
Canada’s Ecological Gifts Program is made possible by the terms of Canada’s Income Tax Act and the Quebec Taxation Act. It offers significant tax benefits to landowners who donate land or a partial interest in land to a qualified recipient. Both individuals and corporations can donate land through the program. A proposed gift must be certified by the Minister of Environment and Climate Change as ecologically sensitive to qualify as an ecological gift. The Minister also approves the recipient organization and determines the fair market value of the donation.
For over twenty-five years, the Ecological Gifts Program has provided a way for Canadians with ecologically sensitive land to protect nature and leave a legacy for future generations. Many of these ecological gifts contain areas of national or provincial significance, rich in biodiversity, and home to some of Canada’s iconic species at risk.
Donations range from family land legacies to corporations in British Columbia donating covenants on forested land in the Gulf Islands and Atlantic communities pulling together to preserve treasured coastal habitats. Each ecological gift, no matter the size, contributes to the creation of a network of protected areas that reach across every region in Canada and is a true reflection of the value individual Canadians place on the importance of protecting nature.
“I want to thank all Canadians who are stepping up with generous gifts of land for conservation and wildlife protection through the Ecological Gifts Program. Valued at one billion dollars, these spaces will go a long way in safeguarding our environment,” Minister Guilbeault stated. Today’s milestone is yet another step towards reaching our commitment to conserve a quarter of Canada’s land and oceans by 2025. Whether by protecting nature with initiatives like this, or investing in clean technology, we’re focused on building a healthy future and strong economy for generations to come.“
Between the generosity of Canadians and the commitment of the Government to nature protection, progress is being made towards conserving a quarter of Canada’s lands and a quarter of it’s oceans in Canada by 2025, and 30 percent by 2030. Over 1,600 ecological gifts have been donated across Canada, protecting more than 213,000 hectares of wildlife habitat, including for many species at risk.
Locally, the Land Conservancy of Kingston, Frontenac, Lennox & Addington oversees the preservation of some of the area’s most treasured natural gems, with 12 properties including the Arthur Nature Reserve and the Lee Nature Reserve.