Frequently Asked Questions

How do we conserve land?

Vision

TIWLT envisions a future where the Thousand Islands Watershed region is a landscape of connected natural spaces that support healthy and diverse ecosystems protected both publicly and privately.

Mission Statement

To permanently protect land in the Thousand Islands Watershed region through acquisition or conservation agreements, and to achieve good land management through stewardship agreements and education.

TIWLT is approved by Environment and Climate Change Canada as qualified to hold lands of recognized ecological significance, and to use legal and tax tools entrusted by the Canada Revenue Agency that assist landowners with tax benefits for gifts of ecological lands. The program is called Ecogifts. There are basically three types of programs that land trusts such as TIWLT can use: fee-simple donations (gifts of property for no cash benefit), split receipting (where there is a reduced sale price from the appraised property value, and where the landowner gets a charitable donation receipt for the gift value portion), and conservation easement agreements (where the landowner continues to own the land, but gives up some or all of the future development rights).

There are costs for easement or donation work, and these can include the following: the ecological assessment in some cases, though TIWLT generally covers that unless further expertise is needed; legal work (and both parties must have their own counsel and work); a survey in some cases, especially where there may be severance; title registry and the appraisal.. In total these base costs run in the $5,000 to $12,000 range. Survey costs can be significant in rural areas. The land trust would ask the landowners to pay, if they are able, for the costs, which are most often offset by the tax benefit received. The land trusts do not have grants or income for these costs. The land trust must otherwise raise the funds through events and charity drives. In addition, the land trust must set aside a dedicated conservation fund for monitoring costs and contingencies, that is equal to 10% of the land’s appraised value, and keep up with inflation for that account.

What is our mid to long term strategy?

Land trusts must play the “long game”. Land in trust is forever. And, the work is more than helping protect highly important natural habitat today – it’s about positive steps for climate change and wildlife far into the future. There are 4 pillars to our strategy: conservation, education, family and property legacy, and quality of life – think of them as 4 “L”s – Land, Learning, Legacies and Life.

Natural spaces are as complex as any machine, for Nature is a highly complex mechanism. The term ‘ecology’ means the inter-relationships of living things and their landscapes. There is actually a little discussed realm of the economy called “ecosystem services”. These ecosystem services are things that happen in the natural world that are of benefit to us, as well of course to other species, but as interpreted to human well-being. Conservation integrates ecology, social well-being and economy.

As example, take wetlands. The original wetlands bordering the Great Lakes watershed are largely lost. On average, over 70% of the original wetlands around the Great Lakes no longer exist, and locally the figure is closer to 85%. Wetlands are the watershed’s water filters, water storage mechanisms, fish nurseries, best carbon sinks, and wildlife refuges. They have been lost over centuries to beaver trapping, farm development, infill for housing and shopping centres. A land trust priority is to protect the wetlands and uplands that remain, especially those that are the most important contributors to community well-being.Conserving remaining wetlands helps to prevent flooding and its great costs, to provide water for aquifers and that economic value, to provide nurseries for fish and the sport-fishing industry, and to provide places to see, touch and hear nature for recreation.

What do we do over a typical year?

TIWLT owns and manages conservation easements on nearly 1,500 acres of properties, ranging from small islands in the St. Lawrence to large properties that in some cases have active farm operations.

At least once a year, TIWLT visits each property to monitor it. Monitoring includes inspection to see if there have been any trespass issues or infractions against restrictions that may be in a conservation easement, to note species of interest and changes ecologically, and to inspect to see if any invasive species may have taken hold.

Monitoring visits are recorded and kept in that property’s file. The species records over time help analyze changes in the ecology. If invasive species are found, TIWLT must find ways and means to deal with their removal, if practical.

Where possible, TIWLT may invite the public to come along for the property visit, turning the visit into an educational opportunity.

Beyond monitoring, a considerable amount of time and energy goes into financial record-keeping, and audits. Audits are generally TIWLT’s largest annual expense, and audits must be submitted to both the Canada Revenue Agency and the US Internal Revenue Agency. The latter is the case because TIWLT is recognized as a qualified donee by the IRS, and receives donations of cash, stocks and property as may be contributed – many properties here are owned by US citizens.

We frequently write grant applications to find financial support conservation and education work. These require time for both the writing and reporting.

Where are we located?

TIWLT is located in Canada, in the Thousand Islands region at the head of the St. Lawrence River at the east end of Lake Ontario. The entire Great Lakes system empties into the Atlantic ocean by way of the St. Lawrence River. TIWLT includes the watershed of the Thousand Islands area and north to the Rideau Waterway Land Trust. The Thousand Islands Land Trust (TILT) is our USA sister organization and while we share similar values we are independent of each other and manage and care for properties in our own countries.

The Thousand Islands is a natural area of more than 1,800 islands on a shared border with the United States. It is one of the most biologically diverse natural areas in the world. This is due to the Frontenac Arch, a granite land bridge that connects the Adirondack Mountains in the USA, to the Canadian Shield, through the St Lawrence River. Plants and animals have been migrating through here for thousands of years.

Watch our video to learn more

Are we part of a governance group?

In Canada, there are both the Canadian Land Trust Alliance, and the Ontario Land Trust Alliance (OLTA). At the time TIWLT originally formed, there were no ‘umbrella’ organizations. TIWLT was one of the founding members of OLTA, to help build a collaboration and shared resource for land trusts. Today, there are 38 individual land trusts in Ontario.

A governance structure for OLTA was creation of a set of Standards and Practices. These guide practices that include land securement, content of conservation easements, and finances and contingency funds.

Because land trusts hold land forever, there is need to ensure that the land trust has the plans and capacity to ensure that the lands are protected as committed. For this reason land trusts have ‘fall-back’ plans which should they be needed may include agreement with another land trust to assume assets, or with agencies such as national or provincial parks as appropriate, or in accordance with the easement owner’s wishes.

What are our current projects?

TIWLT has five project areas underway.

While conservation projects in this region are on few people’s radar, the economic value and impact of TIWLT’s overall project is larger in scope that most could imagine. The components in total add up to over $1.2 million.

They are as follows:

450,000
Thousand Acre Challenge
375,000
Ecological Demonstration Farm, Ironwood Organics
400,000
Learning Centre at Glen Elbe

Currently, TIWLT is 75% of the way to reaching the total funding goal, with $335,000 to go.

The Thousand Acre Challenge

­­This is a focused project to conserve very important natural spaces. Conservation in our context has many dimensions. A landscape that is able to buffer the community against effects of climate change is of benefit to us all in terms of flood and drought offset, green space and economy. Today, only 5% of this region has a certainty of such protection in all of the national park, provincial park, conservation authority lands and land trust lands – where science says that no less than 30% of any landscape must be in healthy natural condition to benefit the community and planet. Over its 27 years, TIWLT has contributed some 5,000 acres to protected spaces, doubling the size of Thousand Islands National Park and increasing the size of Charleston Lake Provincial Park in the process. Now, we’re working to conserve an additional 1,000 key acres – another .5% of natural spaces.

There are two areas of focus:

  • Leeders Creek has extensive forests and wetlands, critical for wildlife, water storage and filtering. This is Charleston Lake’s largest tributary and this wetland complex needs to be in best health to protect Canada’s most southern lake trout lake.
  • Lover’s Lane is a narrow channel bordered by Ash Island and an archipelago of small islands near Ivy Lea. This channel is an very important fish nursery and home to many rare and endangered turtle and fish species.

 

Learning Centre: Glen Elbe Farm historic house restoration and interpretive trails

A 111 acre property donated to TIWLT in 2019 by the late Jane Topping, with a rich complex of historic, cultural, Provincially Significant Wetland, creek and ravine, forest and agricultural features. With the restoration of the circa 1850s house and 1870s barn and the creation of trails leading to and through the property, the old farm at Glen Elbe property will become a new interpretive site and learning centre for the region.

 

Farms and Ecological Services: Ironwood Organics Ecological Demonstration Farm

TIWLT is conducting farm, soil and wildlife studies at three other locations. Often an individual property can be a mosaic of forests, wetlands, rivers, lakes, streams and farmland. Often, all of those features are found on individual properties. Ironwood Organics, just north of Charleston Lake grows “ecological services” as by-products of heritage grains, potatoes and beans, funded by multi-year grants to TIWLT from the W. Garfield Weston Foundation. And on two 100 acre+ properties owned by TIWLT, a portion is in hay fields which have strategically timed cutting to create habitat for threatened grasslands nesting birds. A conservation easement property has pasture, and there through fencing and watering projects cattle are restricted from foraging in critical sites for rare plants and animals, and studies and projects are on-going for bat and forest nesting bird species. The farm projects are used as education projects for the public, and knowledge transfer to the benefit of the area’s farm community.

 

Property Oversight: Monitoring with wildlife study and education on all current projects

All of the properties both owned and under conservation easements by TIWLT must be monitored and reviewed at least once each year. Monitoring includes inspection to see if there have been any trespass issues, infractions against restrictions that may be in a conservation easement, to note species of interest and changes ecologically, and to inspect to see if any invasive species may have taken hold. If needed, steps are taken to resolve issues. This is part of due diligence and our standards and practices for land trusts. With currently about 1,300 acres and responsibility for 15 properties ranging from small islands to lands over 900 acres, from the tip of Wolfe Island to east of Athens, this work is intensive.

 

Organization Development: Board and volunteer development

Land trusts are obligated through regulation by the CRA to hold properties and easements forever. And so a top priority today is to ensure both human and financial resources are in place for the future. The work done by land trusts involves a very wide range of expertise, from biology to farming, accounting, financial management, legal services, fundraising, grant writing, volunteer management, human resources, communications and technology. The monitoring, research, events and education has a breadth of volunteer needs. All in all, this all takes a community of people. This community-building is very much front of mind today.

How can people contribute?

As a registered charity in Canada, TIWLT can issue tax receipts for donations. Donations can be in cash, property, goods, stocks and bonds, insurance policies, and through wills. Donations can be made directly to TIWLT at its mailing address, and with stocks, bonds and so forth to a special fund at RBC, and through TIWLT’s portal or at the on-line charity Canada Helps.

Properties and conservation easements donated for conservation may go through the Ecogifts program of Environment and Climate Change Canada, if they qualify in terms of ecological significance. If accepted in that mechanism, the tax benefit is derived by appraisal by a CRA-approved appraiser, and will be 100% of the appraised value, and the tax benefit may be carried forward up to ten years from the year of donation. Land gifted in this means is not subject to capital gains. If donated land does not come by way of the Ecogifts program, a tax receipt for 100% of Fair Market Value from a certified appraiser can be issued by TIWLT, and carried forward up to five years from the date of donation. Land gifted in this means is subject to capital gains. TIWLT always advises potential donors to find independent legal and accounting advice.

The TIWLT area has a large number of US citizens who own land here. Many property and financial donations have been made by this group. Depending on circumstance, the persons may or may not be able to use a tax receipt in Canada. If not, donors may choose to go through the organization American Friends of Canadian Conservation (AFoCC), based in the US. TIWLT is recognized by the IRS as a qualified donee, and funds, property and other gifts may be donated to AFoCC for tax receipts of full value of the donation. AFoCC may direct those donations, less a percentage for transaction fees, to TIWLT.

But it’s not just property and financial donations that are vital to TIWLT. Equally important are peoples’ gifts of their time and talent. Whether volunteering for help in property monitoring or a research project, or volunteering to the Board of Directors – time and talent are priceless commodities. Generations from now, the community will benefit more and more from the network of protected spaces that deliver green space, better air and water quality, recreation, wildlife and the hundreds of subtle, vital ecosystem services that are pillars of healthy communities.

Please use our chart below to help you determine how you can contribute.

Learn how to donate stocks, bonds, securities, items or property for resale Donate fund through our secure donation portal Become a TIWLT Member Learn about volunteer opportunities Your best donation option is a Fee Simple Donation Your best donation option may be American Friends of Canadian Conservation Your best donation option is a Conservation Easement

Do we accept any property?

TIWLT is focused on properties that have strategic value to the health and well-being of the area. Source waters, wetlands, migration routes and unique geological properties are our primary interest.

It may not be immediately obvious what constitutes a TIWLT property so please contact us if you are interested or have questions about your property.