American Friends’ Case for Support

American Friends of Canadian Land Trusts (American Friends) has a focused purpose and unique role – protecting ecologically important land in Canada owned by conservation-minded Americans, in collaboration with Canadian conservation organizations.

American Friends is protecting land all across Canada, from Prince Edward Island to British Columbia. Canada’s spectacular natural lands – seacoasts, forests, prairies, lakes, rivers, and islands – provide important ecological, economic, recreational, cultural, social and scenic benefits. These landscapes are defined by nature rather than political boundaries. Canada’s treasured landscapes, particularly those within a day’s drive of population centers in the US and Canada, are increasingly threatened. Demographics are causing big ownership shifts; as aging landowners sell their highly appreciated properties the new owners of these expensive properties are using them more intensively.

US taxpayers own a significant percentage of those priority conservation lands, for example:

  • 25% of Nova Scotia’s coast is owned by non-Canadians, most of whom are US taxpayers
  • In parts of Lake Huron’s ecologically-significant Georgian Bay, Americans own up to 80% of the properties
  • Americans own as much as 30% of private land in the beautiful Southern Gulf Islands in British Columbia

Land protection professionals identify protection of American-owned lands as critical for conservation success in many parts of Canada. Before the creation of American Friends in 2007, they found US and Canadian tax laws to be nearly insurmountable barriers to donations of land or conservation easements from US taxpayers.

American Friends removed those tax and legal barriers, encouraging and facilitating “cross-border conservation” – Canadian land protected by US property owners.

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St. John Point, a 64-acre waterfront property on Mayne Island, is going to be a new regional park in the Southern Gulf Islands of British Columbia, thanks to a unique collaboration.

American Friends Mentioned in CBC News Article “New Regional Park Coming to B.C.’s Mayne Island”

Conservationists, local governments and Southern Gulf Island residents are celebrating a new regional park.

Their successful fundraising campaign has allowed for the purchase of 26 hectares on Mayne Island known as St. John Point.

“Together we have assured the protection of this magnificent stretch of Coastal Douglas Fir landscape and over two kilometres of coastline,” said Malcolm Inglis, president of the Mayne Island Conservancy, in a news release.

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American Friends Annual Report

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Among Friends - The Newsletter of Cross-Border Conservation

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Cross-border Conservation Training Program

Recognizing that American-owned lands are key conservation properties in many land trust catchment areas in Ontario, the Ontario Trillium Foundation has provided funding over three years to American Friends and Ontario Land Trust Alliance to launch the Cross-border Conservation Training Program (CCTP) in 2016.

The goal is to increase the collective capacity of Ontario conservation organizations to be successful at “cross-border conservation” – to secure high-priority conservation properties owned wholly or partly by US taxpayers – and to bring more funding to support such work. We envision offering training opportunities in the form of workshops and one-on-one mentoring. CCTP also has funds for mapping, communications resources, and a small grants program to assist OLTA members with the costs of initiating cross-border conservation gifts.

Rainy Lake Conservancy, Georgian Bay Land Trust, Lake Superior Watershed Conservancy, Magnetawan Watershed Land Trust and The Bruce Trail Conservancy have all partnered with AF to secure one or more of these cross-border conservation gifts.  In Ontario, 12 cross-border gifts combine to protect over 800 acres since 2011.  US income tax benefits made these gifts financially feasible for the owners, many of whom have passed their Canadian properties down through generations. The total appraised value of these gifts is over $6 million USD.

The Old Man Creek Preserve was saved from subdivision and development by an American who acquired the land and donated it to American Friends of Canadian Land Trusts in a transaction facilitated by the Magnetawan Watershed Land Trust.

Conservation organizations can help develop the program by completing this short, online survey.

Professional advisors and conservationists can gain more information and become involved by contacting:

Sandra Tassel, American Friends Program Coordinator, or Kristen Callow, OLTA Program Officer.

Little Annapolis Lake

US Enhanced Conservation Easement Tax Incentive

Big news for conservation
Last week the US Congress gave a wonderful year end gift to preservation advocates, protection-oriented landowners and anyone who values natural, wild places. In a bi-partisan vote that reflects Americans’ interest in conservation, irrespective of their other political leanings, both the House and Senate voted to make the “Enhanced Conservation Easement Tax Incentive” permanent and retroactive to the beginning of 2015.

Here’s what that means to American Friends, its partners and US taxpayers who own ecologically-sensitive land, including in Canada.

What is the Conservation Tax Deduction?
The US conservation tax deduction allows a landowner to claim a federal income tax deduction for the value of a donated conservation easement that meets requirements of a qualified conservation contribution — similar to other charitable donations. The value of the conservation easement is generally calculated by determining the difference in property value before and after the conservation easement is registered on title. The landowner donated that amount by restricting the potential future uses of the protected land.

Without the enhanced incentive a landowner could only deduct the value of a conservation easement, up to 30% of his or her adjusted gross income (AGI), for up to six years. (The year of the gift, plus five years of carry forward.)

These former limits meant that taxpayers without high taxable incomes might not be able to fully utilize the charitable deduction associated with an easement gift. It was a serious disincentive for people of more modest means to donate conservation easements, especially in areas where property values have appreciated substantially and/or when a landowner wanted to preserve their land’s natural character by eliminating most or all development. The more future development the landowner foregoes the higher the appraised value of the easement, hence the tax incentive conundrum which has been addressed by the new legislation.

What is the Enhanced Incentive and How Does it Work?
The enhanced incentive raises both the AGI limit and the length of time over which donor can use the tax deductions. These modifications can make a big difference in the financial bottom-line produced by donating a conservation easement.

Landowners with modest incomes, or who donate conservation easements that are very valuable, will now be able to fully use their deductions and reduce their tax burden. Farmers and ranchers are eligible for even higher deduction allowances.

The specifics of the enhanced deduction:

  • Raises the maximum deduction a donor can take for donating a qualified conservation easement from 30% of their adjusted gross income (AGI) in any year to 50%.
  • Allows qualified farmers and ranchers to deduct up to 100% of their AGI.
  • Increases the number of years over which a donor can take deductions from a donation of a qualified conservation easement from 6 to 16 years.

The newly-approved incentives mean that voluntary land conservation will be even more attractive to US taxpayers who own ecologically important land in Canada; especially those who want to keep their land in their families and therefore need to reduce their Canadian capital gains. Donating a conservation easement to American Friends will decrease the current value of their land, making it less expensive to transfer the property to the next generation. The enhanced tax benefits will greatly improve the overall bottom-line by allowing donors to reduce their US taxes more significantly.

This change will help American Friends, its Canadian partners and the families from the US who are seeking a financially realistic way to retain the natural qualities of their properties. The incentive further leverages philanthropic and government funding to save Canada’s healthy watersheds, wildlife habitat, scenic views, recreational resources and economies based on cottage tourism, hunting and fishing.

Please contact Sandra Tassel, Program Coordinator, for more information about this exciting news. Phone (360) 515-7171 or info@afoclt.org

Beloved New Reserve Inspired by Happy Old Memories

Barry Graham says he “gets goosebumps” when he visits Magnetawan Watershed Land Trust’s (MWLT) new conservation area, known as the Old Man’s Creek Reserve. The 240 acre property, with its landmark waterfall, and namesake waterway, was one of the first in Ontario to be transferred from American Friends to a Canadian partner organization.

The lands and waters encompassed by the Reserve have been part of Graham’s life since he was an infant, and his family brought him from Rome, Georgia to their summer home on Ahmic Lake nearly 70 years ago. Graham, who is the
president of the MWLT board and now a resident of Washington DC, recalls canoeing across the lake to Old Man’s Creek.

Many other Ahmic Lake cottagers and local residents of the local community share fond memories of exploring this beautiful property. So there was widespread consternation when a developer bought the land and secured approval for a subdivision on the creek; threatening Ahmic Lake’s pristine water quality and closing access to the iconic falls.

To avoid destruction of their venerated retreat, area property owners formed MWLT to pursue its permanent protection. They were inspired by Ted Rouse, who promised to acquire the land and donate it for conservation if his neighbors created a conservation organization that could assist with a cross-border gift.

So it was that MWLT was one of American Friends’ early transaction partners, and Ted Rouse an essential early supporter. In 2012, he donated the majority of the land that is now the Reserve to American Friends. Since then MWLT has been managing the property to both preserve its natural qualities and make it available for visitors, young and old, to enjoy.

Graham reports that the public access has won fans from around the community, including elected officials who view the preserved land and trails as an asset for tourism.

Thanks to the generosity of Rouse and major contributors who acquired other parcels in the Reserve, and the efforts of volunteers from both MWLT and American Friends, Old Man’s Creek and the lands that surround it will remain undeveloped and as beautiful as Graham remembers them.

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