To the Expositor:
Open letter to Mayor David Haight and Cockburn Island Council
Dear Mayor Haight and Council,
As you are aware, a number of people who spend time on Cockburn Island have expressed concern about the lack of information regarding aspects of the Nature Conservancy of Canada’s (NCC’s) proposed acquisition on Cockburn Island. While NCC is still focused on raising the remaining funds required to make the project a reality, I understand that additional information at this time would also be useful for you in responding to questions from your constituents. This letter is to address the three main concerns we’ve heard: the effects of NCC ownership on municipal revenues, deer hunting, and access for recreation.
NCC understands that it would be a concern for the community if municipal revenues were to decrease. While the province offers tax relief programs for private landowners, it is our intention that municipal revenues not be diminished as a result of NCC acquiring these lands. NCC believes that enrolment of the lands under the province’s Managed Forest Tax Incentive Program will achieve this goal. As a next step, NCC will work with council and your advisors to review options and confirm whether there is any net loss of revenue for Cockburn Island when considering the enhanced funds transferred from the provincial government under this program.
We are aware that there is a long-standing tradition of deer hunting that is important to many of the residents and users of Cockburn Island, and NCC does not expect there to be any substantial change from the current approach. Staff will look for input from council members and representatives of the local sportsmen’s club and the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources, and then incorporate sustainable deer hunting into management plans for the property.
NCC’s main motivation for purchasing the property is to maintain the significant habitats and species that are found there and to contribute to the health of island ecosystems. In addition to that, we want to conserve the land for people to enjoy in ways that are compatible with these objectives. If NCC is successful in raising the funds necessary to purchase this property, we will solicit input from council and other representatives from the community in developing plans to conserve the property, with a view to continuing the long tradition of the community enjoying the property. We will also welcome the help of Islanders in managing the land. I envision NCC working with the community to achieve a variety of mutual goals for generations to come.
I trust this letter will serve to advance discussions towards achieving a conservation project that benefits both wildlife and the community, as well as ease some key concerns that community members are understandably feeling in the absence of information. Once we are confident of having the funds to complete the transaction we will focus more attention on management and community input, but in the interim I encourage you to continue the discussions begun with our lead staff for this project.
Sincerely,James Duncan Regional Vice President, Ontario Toronto