Protecting Land in Hamilton’s Watershed – Land Acquisition
In 1960, HCA began acquiring land for permanent protection and to-date has secured 4,251 ha (10,505 ac). These lands include 14 significant Niagara Escarpment properties, seven major conservation areas [link to CA page], a magnificent 121-km trail network, 12 significant wetlands, breath-taking waterfalls, and underground streams and caves. Important habitat for many diverse ecosystems is protected as are numerous provincially and federally recognized species at risk.
As a reaction to increasing development pressures, HCA and the Hamilton Naturalists' Club (HNC) have partnered to protect ecologically significant land. This involves contacting landowners about the opportunities and benefits they may realize by permanently protecting their land through donation, easement or sale.
There are good reasons, both financial and environmental, for landowners to think about protecting their land. The HCA and HNC can help landowners to custom-make a solution that best protects the natural features on their land, while also meeting their tax and estate planning needs.
Examples of land conservation options:
Fortunately landowners have numerous options to choose from when it comes to protecting their land. The HCA and HNC are available [link to contact info] to help landowners through the process and can meet with landowners to further discuss the options.
This option lets landowners donate their property to their chosen charitable conservation organization (ex. HCA or HNC). The organization is then responsible for protecting the donated property forever. There are many opportunities to recognize generous gifts, including but not limited to property naming, trail signage or benches. A tax receipt is issued for the value of the land and there may be significant tax benefits through government tax programs such as Ecogifts. The land can be donated outright, through estates, or through a reserved life estate where landowners can continue to use and enjoy the land.
The Thomas and Mary Young Nature Sanctuary was created in 2005 through a generous donation of land to the HNC by Dundas resident Lorraine Stewart. The sanctuary is named after Ms. Stewart's grandparents, who first acquired the property in the early part of the 20th century, when lands in the area were sold as bush lots to local farmers whose farms were completely cleared. Thomas Young had a life-long interest in conservation that was reflected in the family's good stewardship of the land, which today appears untouched by human hands. We are truly grateful to Ms. Stewart for entrusting us with preserving this significant property that her family has such a long association with conservation.
Through a Life Interest, landowners can donate the property and continue living on it or using it in some way. The agreement can be for the lifetime of the landowner, or for a specified term. Depending on the circumstances, the conservation organization (HCA or HNC) can be responsible for management, maintenance and taxes during the life interest.
Making a gift of land or a conservation easement through one's will can be a powerful conservation tool. To ensure that the bequest will be accepted it is important to work with the recipient conservation organization prior to finalizing one's will. HCA and HNC are available to work with landowners and their lawyers on suggested wording in a Bequest.
In some cases landowners may want to benefit from a charitable donation receipt along with cash. This is done through a Split Receipt where a tax receipt is issued for the difference between independently appraised market value and the sale price. This tool can be used if HCA or HNC has, or can raise, funds to put towards a partial purchase.
This is a popular option if landowners want to keep ownership and rights to use the property. With a conservation easement the natural features on the property are protected and the landowner may receive significant property and capital tax savings. Conservation easements are legal documents that allow landowners to place restrictions on the types of activities that can occur and where those activities can occur on the property. Easements can be placed on all or part of the property.
HNC has been fortunate to work with the Hendrys who want to ensure the environmentally significant wetland portion of their 95 acre property is permanently protected. They will continue to use the agricultural portion of their land and feel that a conservation easement best suits their goals for the land. HNC and the Hendrys have developed a list of restrictions for the wetland portion of the property that will ensure that it is protected even when the land is sold to future landowners. HNC will visit the property each year to ensure the wetland remains intact as the Hendrys envisioned.
Tax benefits/Ecogifts Program
Donating land or conservation easements through Environment Canada's Ecological Gifts Program provides enhanced tax savings that can be used against 100% of the land donor's total annual income over five years plus the year of the donation. A third party, unbiased appraiser determines the value of the donation and the conservation organization issues a charitable receipt. HCA and HNC are both certified ecological gift recipient organizations.
Purchase or Sale
Sometimes the other conservation options are not a suitable match for a landowner and they would prefer to protect their lands by selling it to HCA or HNC. Depending on the environmental significance, location, and cost, the organizations may be able to secure funds to purchase lands. The purchase price is based on an independent appraisal.
If you would like to learn more about this unique partnership and the opportunities to protect land, please contact:
Land Securement Specialist