ECOgifts — foresight that protects future generations
You are probably familiar with bequests, life insurance and charitable annuities as ways to leave a legacy. Another method is less well-known but it, too, can be put in place today to ensure results that have a lasting impact.
Canada's Ecological Gifts Program (ECOgifts) offers tax benefits to Canadians who donate ecologically sensitive land to eligible organizations – like the rare Charitable Research Reserve, an urban land trust and environmental institute that has the conservation and protection of Canada’s environmental heritage as its priority. Sometimes the lands remain in the family but are subject to a covenant or an easement that ensures their long term protection. As long as certain criteria set by the Ministry of the Environment are met, then the donation of the ecologically sensitive land results in capital gain benefits.
Our population is growing and our needs as a community will too. We’ll need housing and we’ll need roads but we will also need green spaces – ones that protect our health through clean air, water and soil and are large enough to support biodiversity and provide the habitats needed to help stop the dismaying trends in wildlife decline.
Introducing raresites: A Watershed Approach to Saving Lands and Protecting Water, together
During rare’s Strategy and Planning process in late 2014 and early 2015 – through surveys, focus groups, expert interviews and a town hall meeting – it became apparent that one of the biggest issues faced by conservation in the Grand River watershed and adjacent areas is a lack of grassroots efforts to protect land; we are losing agricultural land as well as natural areas at an unprecedented rate. Now, as it is developing its next 5-year plan, rare is building on its conservation successes to protect much more of the Grand River watershed, acknowledging that it and its tributaries – including the Eramosa River – are heritage rivers under threat.
With its headquarters at the confluence of the Grand and Speed Rivers in Cambridge and North Dumfries Township, rare’s first three locations comprise over 900 acres within the Haldimand Tract that spans six miles on either side of the Grand River from source to mouth, land granted to Indigenous Peoples in 1784 to recognize their support for the British in the American Revolution. In Wellington County, rare is creating an Eramosa River Conservation Corridor to protect the river and its adjacent forests and uplands – lands of the highest ecological significance and which are so far largely unaffected by direct human impact. For all its properties, rare acknowledges and is grateful to all of the original stewards of the land. These lands function as a living laboratory, taking us beyond traditional Western methods of land preservation and providing unprecedented opportunities for ecological research, education, community engagement, recreation and reconciliation. The work at rare discovers best practices and answers to environmental problems that can be shared worldwide. And through a Chain of Learning, they make their findings available to even the youngest citizen.
The kind of work going on at rare is now being shown to have the best chance of success at changing the trends in rapid species decline; namely, they take an ecosystem-based approach that protects multiple species, while doing important research to begin understanding what is really going on within the natural world. They also work to understand the interconnectedness of all relationships with land and people in small “islands” of protected space – all that is left to us on an increasingly developed planet – and they use their knowledge to educate the next generation of conservationists who will be responsible land stewards. The staff, advisors and volunteers at rare will bring well-planned, sustainable conservation activity to the lands, including science- and Indigenous knowledge-based stewardship and environmental research projects, while connecting with the Wellington/Guelph community through restoration and maintenance, educational hikes, and citizen-science volunteer opportunities that include monitoring birds and butterflies.
rare’s first purchase of lands outside of the Cambridge area – 87 acres of pristine lands in Rockwood with multiple differing habitats ranging from cedar swamp forest, through hay meadows and high quality mixed forests, to provincially significant wetlands and part of the Eramosa Valley Area of Natural and Scientific Interest (ANSI) – sets in motion the protection of over 600 acres from Rockwood to Everton in Wellington County, protected and stewarded in perpetuity by rare.
“Wellington County’s beautiful countryside is one of the reasons it’s such a great place to live and raise a family. The land acquired along the Eramosa River by the rare Charitable Research Reserve — through generous gifts and long-term funding — will leave a lasting legacy for generations to come,” says Hon. Michael Chong, P.C., M.P., Wellington-Halton Hills.
rare’s Natural Legacy Society — your life’s values remembered
Various legacy gifts support these efforts, including a bequest commitment and three ECOgifts: two donations of conservation easements, and a donation of conservation lands on what was the former Edgewood Camp. These donors are forward thinking – ensuring their values are remembered, in perpetuity – helping to ensure the lands around the Eramosa River are stewarded through Western science and traditional Indigenous ways of knowing and being, now and forever.
One of the people helping to launch the Eramosa Conservation Corridor is Ruth Bowes of TrilliumWest Real Estate which serves Wellington County. She is one of seven individuals who came together and purchased the former Edgewood Camp in Eden Mills: “We purchased a property with an environmentally significant wetland along part of the Blue Springs Creek in the Grand River-Eramosa River watershed with the intention to sever and donate this area to an Ontario Land Trust to protect the land in perpetuity for future generations to enjoy.
“The property supports a large diversity of plants and animals native to southern Ontario. The cold-water creek and Provincially Significant Wetland are key links in a continuous, forested valley corridor extending from Acton to Guelph.
“We chose rare Charitable Research Reserve to be the recipient of this gift because of their dedication and commitment to protecting these vital wetlands and forests and because they participate in the Canada EcoGifts program that will provide a tax credit for the donation.”
There is perhaps no greater legacy then leaving the gift of a healthier environmental future for generations to come – especially now when increasing urbanization takes up vast swaths of land.
“Ontario’s natural heritage is our strongest asset for growing food, preventing flooding, ensuring clean water and providing habitat for wildlife. Conserving our greenspace is a sacred responsibility and an essential part of climate action. I thank rare Charitable Research Reserve for their work protecting the places we love, and the donors who have the foresight to make ECOgifts of property to help create green corridors; protecting species and spaces for future generations,” commented Mike Schreiner, Green Party, M.P.P., Guelph.
"Just the incentive I needed"
“I’ve been meaning to make a Will for a long time,” Carmen Evans (right) confessed over dinner one night at Artisanale in Guelph. The lively group around the table had made their way from one topic to another, including a discussion of rare’s move into the ‘hood by creating an Eramosa River Conservation Corridor, just one example of the long-term thinking the charity exhibits in its programs. “In that conversation I realized that rare’s motto of ‘intact in perpetuity’ to describe its vision for conservation really provided me with the clarity I needed to put my own ultimate vision in place,” said Evans. “rare’s Natural Legacy Society was just the incentive I needed.”
A young, single artist and professional, Evans makes time in her busy life for community service and continual learning. She teaches violin and viola at the Suzuki String School of Guelph and, among other things, is an avid cyclist, reader and ‘mother bear’ to the Red Bears team for the annual Walk & Run for rare.
As Major Gifts Manager at rare, I welcomed Carmen to the club: “It’s always so inspiring to those of us who work hard every day to advance conservation, research and education for the benefit of our communities to meet yet another person who believes in the long-term value of what rare represents and does. What an honour to be included in someone’s Will!”
A bequest like Carmen’s is a commitment to ensuring personal values are perpetuated long after one is gone, all the while reducing taxes and maximizing gifts to loved ones. Including rare in this plan means keeping vast natural green spaces available for future generations to enjoy.
As climate change wreaks havoc around the world, those places with high deforestation and other disturbances of the natural landscape are often harder hit. But it’s not just far-flung places that are in decline. One of the most comprehensive reports on trends in Canadian wildlife populations was released in 2017 and the results are shocking to many who think of Canada’s vast wilderness areas as a refuge for wildlife. After all, we have a quarter of the Earth’s wetlands, 8,500 rivers and more than 2 million freshwater lakes. But, as the report shows, during the past four decades, human activity – whether industrial development, farming, forestry or the expansion of urban areas – as well as climate change, pollution and overfishing have helped shrink the populations of 451 species, representing half of the 903 monitored species in the country.
Christine Thompson is Major Gifts Manager, rare Charitable Research Reserve and can be contacted at 519-650-9336 x118 or Christine.Thompson@raresites.org
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