The Half Billion Dollar Ecological Gift that Keeps on Giving

There's a little-known, but highly successful federal program in Canada that encourages Canadians to gift ecologically sensitive lands to eligible environmental charities that promise to take care of them in perpetuity. It is called The Ecological Gifts Program. The program provides tax benefits for donations of lands that meet the necessary criteria. At the national level, these include:
  • areas identified, designated or protected by a local, provincial, territorial, national or international system or body as ecologically significant or ecologically important
  • natural spaces of significance to the environment in which they are located
  • sites that have significant current ecological value, or potential for enhanced ecological value, as a result of their proximity to other significant properties
  • municipal or rural lands that are zoned or designated for biodiversity objectives
  • natural buffers around environmentally sensitive areas such as water bodies, streams or wetlands; and
  • areas or sites that contribute to the maintenance of biodiversity or Canada's environmental heritage.

Some provinces, like Ontario, Quebec, New Brunswick, and Prince Edward Island, have their own ecosensitivity criteria. They outline steps to follow for those interested in taking advantage of the opportunity.

Lands can be donated outright, or donors have the option to donate "conservation easements, covenants or servitudes," allowing them, for instance, to remain on the land, or give the land to their heirs, but have pre-specified conservation conditions respected and maintained in perpetuity, no matter who owns the land.

Over 126,211 hectares of land have been protected in this way so far, with the total value of donations recently topping half a billion dollars ($500 million).

Image Credit: Gracie Stinson

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