American Friends Annual Report

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Among Friends - The Newsletter of Cross-Border Conservation

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Give Today and Save St. John Point

St. John Point is one of only a handful of large, privately-owned, undeveloped parcels in the Southern Gulf Islands that feature over a mile of shoreline. The property is a high priority for acquisition because of those characteristics, and the quality and unusual nature of the forest. Preserving the forest is very important both because there is so little Coastal Douglas Fir habitat remaining (of which 80% is on private property) and to prevent subdivision into six lots, as allowed by the zoning.

If we succeed in purchasing St. John Point it will be permanently protected and publicly accessible, so that its beauty can be enjoyed for generations to come. Your contribution to American Friends will help us achieve this goal and will be fully tax deductible in the US. Read more about St. John Point.

 

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

Canadian-American Cross-Border Conservation Success

Drache Aptowitzer LLP, recognized as one of Canada’s foremost experts in the law related to charities and non-profit organizations, recently published a story about a conservation donation in Georgian Bay, Ontario. The Georgian Bay Land Trust (GBLT) had an opportunity to protect an undeveloped island featuring undisturbed stands of White Pine and Red Oak, open rock barrens and coastal meadow marsh, ideal habitat for rare species.

Read the full story

echo island

American Friends’ Echo Island Project Profiled in Thousand Islands Watershed Trust Newsletter

The Winter 2014/2015 edition of Conservation Matters – a Thousand Islands Watershed Trust publication – features an article by Sandra Tassel. The article, titled “Little Island Protected, Big Conservation Opportunity in Thousand Islands“, describes the conservation easement donation of a few acres of Rainy Lake and the first known instance of an American donor giving an easement over property in Ontario to a U.S. land trust.

American Friends Financial Report 2014

Revenue $198,246

afoclt-revenue-2014

Revenue Summary
Administrative$683
Contributions$114,823
Grants$26,029
Individual$88,794
Program Fees$29,550
In Kind Donation$53,190
Total Revenue

$198,246

*American Friends is especially grateful for the probono legal services of:

Mark McHughan, Gowling Lafleur Henderson LLP
Murray Braaten, Lando&Co LLP
Paul Peterson, HGR Graham Partners LLP
Konrad Liegel, Konrad Liegel PLLC
Peter Forester, Q.C., Cox & Palmer

Expenses $192,756

afoclt-expenses-2014

Expenses Summary
Administrative$17,846
Fundraising$27,166
Program$102,222
Grants to Canadian Land Trusts$45,522
Total Expenses$192,756

Completed Projects Summary
Acres ConservedAppraised Value
Prior Years1,9535,168,847
FY13/144991,455,529
Totals2452 Acres$6,624,376

Why Support American Friends with your Financial Gift?

Canadian land trusts work tirelessly to protect the landscapes and communities that are cherished by citizens of both our countries – and many others. Their work reflects pride and love for Canada’s heritage. Financial contributions from people like you – who appreciate Canada’s lakes, rivers, shorelines, wetlands, forests and wildlife – are essential to ensure the permanent protection of these special places.

One way American Friends assists organizations dedicated to protecting Canada’s iconic landscapes is by facilitating gifts of cash, securities and land from US taxpayers. American Friends is recognized by the U.S. Internal Revenue Service as a publicly-supported charity, therefore gifts are tax deductible for U.S. taxpayers.

Please consider including American Friends and its partners in your charitable giving.

Sustaining Corporate Partners Program

Corporations interested in investing in protection of landscapes beloved by generations of Canadians and Americans can underwrite the work of American Friends and its partners at a national, regional, provincial or local scale. We invite business leaders to participate in American Friends innovative cross-border alliances with U.S. taxpayers who own strategic conservation properties in Canada. Sustaining Corporate Partners benefit by expanding the preservation of priority lands in Canada, obtaining unparalleled leverage for their contributions and communicating with their markets about their commitment to protecting Canada’s natural heritage for future generations.