History advises caution on Nature Conservancy assurances

History advises caution on Nature Conservancy assurances

To the Expositor:

This is a response to the October 3, page 5 letter to the editor ‘Nature Conservancy answers some Cockburn Island concerns.’

This article clearly indicates that the Nature Conservancy of Canada (NCC) intends to have land purchased on Cockburn Island designated tax exempt by the Municipal Property Assessment Corporation. To avoid negative public reaction, Mr. Duncan assures Mayor Haight and the Council of Cockburn Island that the Managed Forest Tax Incentive could be a solution to the loss of tax revenue resulting from NCC purchase of 24,000 acres on Cockburn Island. Those of us who have been personally involved in the Managed Forest Program know that this is not a viable solution to Cockburn Island’s problems.

When the Managed Forest Tax Incentive program was first introduced it was a win-win situation for both the landowner and the municipalities. The designation of land under the managed forest program required that the landowner carry out a program of constructive forest management. In return, the province rebated 75 percent of the land taxes to the municipality. Unfortunately, as the program became more popular and costly, the province downloaded the impending financial burden to the municipal governments. While we Northerners shudder at the thought of 40 percent of Cockburn Island landowners covering the 75 percent tax shortfall for the wealthy NCC, it appears that Mr. Duncan has little empathy, regarding this as a minor subsidy to encourage development of wildlife habitat. Sadly, this appears to be another example of the contempt that the Nature Conservancy shows toward the residents of Northern Ontario. If the original, provincially subsidized managed forest program is so readily available for NCC land, why haven’t the townships of Western Manitoulin Island received this wonderful deal?

Also, it would be interesting to see if Mr. Duncan would personally participate in planting thousands of trees to improve the existing wildlife habitat.

Mr. Duncan also promises that since there is a long standing tradition of deer hunting on Cockburn Island, the NCC does not expect there to be any substantial change from the current approach. This was not the case for Dawson and Robinson Townships. When their land was purchased by NCC, hunters faced a substantial increase in landowner “permission to hunt” fees. Township residents were also upset by the strict restrictions on access through NCC properties.

Mayor Haight and Councillors of Cockburn Island, just a final word of caution: Dawson and Robinson Townships were also presented with glowing projections and promises that were never fulfilled after the NCC purchase was finalized.

Wayne Bailey




  1. I have researched the mission statement abstract of this Conservancy organization; a significant section of this abstract was devoted to assurances and checks against various abuses of the program. I have written to this organization and asked to be referred to websites that would detail some of the Conservancy transactions that have been consummated in Ontario, focusing especially on tax base reduction and permitted use of the various lands by the public. I received no response.
    I am urgently disposed against the premise of this organization’s existence and mandate. It seeks to determine the future of lands of Canada, obeying a small part of Canadian legislation and more or less free from contributory tax burdens. These Conservancy lands enter a limbo in several ways set apart from the sovereignty of Ontario and Canada. It appears to me that the rights of government to taxation and land use will require legislation to return these Conservancy lands to the people of Ontario and Canada.
    It appears that a person could cede lands to the Conservancy and continue to farm these lands, perhaps for personal profit, It is difficult for me to determine who exactly can use these lands. I call to mind some lovely waterfront Conservancy property which may be used by vetted people, with Conservancy permission. Who grants this permission and who is entitled to enjoy these properties is unknown to me, who is not one of the Conservancy informed. I could imagine a case in which one could encourage one’s progeny to enjoy the waterfront property, with reduced or no taxes, for an unlimited stretch of time into the future. This scenario, while a mental construct on my part, seems not unreasonable and also seems unjust.
    Could someone enlighten me about my dark scenarios so I need not fret an imagined injustice?

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