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International Program Announced to Accelerate Land Conservation in Canada

October 21, 2010 | American Friends | Seattle, WA
International Program Announced to Accelerate Land Conservation in Canada

Photo by Wayne Beitler, © The Trustees of Reservations


Tim Seifert, President
Phone: 360) 468-3202    

Bonnie Sutherland, Board member
Phone:  (902) 425-5263



International Program Announced to Accelerate Land Conservation in Canada

-- The American Friends of Canadian Land Trusts (American Friends) announced today the launch of its ‘Cross-Border Land Conservation Program” to address a longstanding barrier to Canadian land conservation. Tim Seifert, president of the board of American Friends and executive director of the San Juan Preservation Trust in Washington, said that  the Canadian Cabinet’s recent approval of key legislation makes the new program possible and will allow American Friends to work with land trusts in Canada to increase the pace and amount of protection for Canada’s unique natural legacy. The legislation provides tax incentives for US residents to donate their ecologically and culturally significant lands located in Canada to American Friends.

Land Trusts are private, non-governmental organizations that are recognized by the Canadian government as charitable entities. Canada’s land trusts work to conserve the country’s most treasured natural, scenic and working landscapes. Every province has a land trust, each striving to protect what makes its area special. Some focus on small geographic areas while the missions of others such as the Nova Scotia Nature Trust encompass entire provinces. In general, land trusts accomplish their conservation goals by working with private landowners who want to ensure that their properties are permanently conserved, usually using conservation restrictions referred to as conservation easements.

Until American Friends began its Cross-Border Land Conservation Program, Canadian land trusts had been unable to protect many unique and significant conservation lands - from pristine coastline in Nova Scotia and British Columbia, to extensive lakeshore and island habitats in southern Ontario - due to a twist in tax laws. Many of Canada’s most scenic and sensitive lands are owned by Americans. Unlike Canadian landowners, American owners of Canadian land are generally subject to significant Canadian capital gains tax if they wish to protect their properties through donation to Canadian conservation organizations of either their land or easements. even though they receive no money in return.

Thanks to leadership by Canada’s Finance Minister James Flaherty, and strong support from the Environment Minister, Jim Prentice, the Government of Canada approved an amendment to the Income Tax Act regulations to encourage these gifts, for the benefit of all Canadians. The amendment changes the regulations so that gifts of Canadian conservation lands and easements made by American taxpayers to the American Friends will receive the same tax exemptions as those received by Canadians donating to other land trusts. This legislation makes American Friends’ cross-border program operational.

“We are delighted to formally launch our cross-border land conservation program today” said Bonnie Sutherland, Executive Director of the Nova Scotia Nature Trust and a founder of American Friends. “With this decision by the Canadian government, many of Canada’s most significant natural areas can now be protected, forever, not only for the benefit of all Canadians but their neighbors to the south as well.  Many American owners of important conservation land in Canada would like to preserve their land permanently for everyone’s benefit, and now such ‘cross-border’ conservation is possible.” Sutherland’s land trust is already working with American Friends to protect three ecologically important properties in Nova Scotia. The U.S. owners have been waiting for decades for this opportunity, according to Sutherland.

Bill Turner, Executive Director of The Land Conservancy of British Columbia foresees an increased pace for conservation in British Columbia and throughout Canada as a result of the legislation. “The capital gains tax has been a significant obstacle for Americans wishing to conserve their Canadian property and therefore was a problem for land trusts trying to work with those landowners. We are very glad Minister Flaherty recognized this impediment to conservation and moved to correct it.” Turner adds, “American Friends, American owners of land in Canada, and conservationists across the country enthusiastically welcome the government’s recent decision, and the formal launch of American Friend’s Cross-Border Land Conservation Program.”

The government of Canada recognizes the critical role of land trusts and private landowners in Canadian wildlife, habitat and landscape conservation. “Working with private landowners in protecting Canada’s unique natural heritage is a laudable goal our government fully supports,” commented Minister Flaherty. “We believe this recent legislative amendment will give private landowners and conservation groups across the country more tools to accomplish their goals.”

American Friends is a unique charity whose mission is to support Canadian land conservation organizations that protect ecological and historic lands. It achieves that mission by working with conservation-minded American landowners. American Friends, based in Seattle, Washington, makes grants to Canadian conservation organizations using funds donated by both Americans and Canadians who wish to support natural resource protection. The board of American Friends is composed of professional land conservation experts from the U.S. and Canada who are working together across political boundaries to protect Canada’s premier landscapes. American Friends of Canadian Land Trusts is recognized by the Internal Revenue Service as a publicly-supported, Section 501(c)(3) charitable organization.


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