Gathering Of People | Mabou Highlands

Fiddles and bagpipes call people from around the world to the town of Mabou, on Cape Breton Island, at the northern end of Nova Scotia. They are the sounds of the Ceilidh tradition, celebrating Celtic culture brought by 19th-century immigrants. The Gaelic word translates to “Gathering of People.”

In 2019, a Gathering of People celebrated the protection of 2000 acres on the wild coast of the Mabou Highlands and a new tradition of conservation, let by 20th-century settlers from the United States, and the Nova Scotia Nature Trust.

Protecting Ontario Farmland with Help from US Friends

The Ontario Farmland Trust (OFT) is permanently protecting farmland from subdivision and urban sprawl with help from the American Friends of Canadian Conservation and the Woodcock Foundation.

OFT recently completed its 16th conservation easement, with a grant from American Friends to defray the substantial costs of protecting the 210-acre organic, multigenerational family farm in Price Edward County, Ontario. A charitable gift from the Woodcock Foundation in the U.S. made the grant possible.

Protecting Place with Its People

Darkness is increasingly rare in North America but remains abundant in the St. Croix River watershed of Maine and New Brunswick. Nighttime satellite images show it as an inky corridor connected to a broad swath of protected landscapes in northern New England.

This obsidian expanse of intact forest, wetlands, rivers and streams, located within an eight-hour drive of 11 million people in Canada and the US, is a notable transborder conservation and Indigenous reconciliation opportunity.

The St. Croix River is the easternmost boundary between the US and Canada, but the plants, animals, air, water, and people demonstrate it is a continuous and relatively pristine region. The native people with the longest connection to this place are leading an effort to protect it for the future, with support from the Nature Trust of New Brunswick, the province of New Brunswick, American Friends of Canadian Conservation and funders from both countries.

Conservation without Borders – A new initiative in British Columbia

Beautiful, bountiful and balmy British Columbia (BC) has been a magnet for Canadians and Americans alike. Ecosystems, watersheds, wildlife corridors and Indigenous cultures extended on both sides of the 49th parallel north that now divides our two countries. Businesses including timber, shipping, fishing and tourism were relatively borderless, until recently. As a consequence of this interwoven history, US taxpayers own extensive acreage in BC. For example, data from the Islands Trust, the planning entity for the Southern Gulf Islands, indicates that approximately 30% of the private lands are American-owned.

BC land trusts working in some of the province’s most ecologically-significant and scenic landscapes recognize that US taxpayers own high priority conservation properties. In response, the Land Trust Alliance of British Columbia and American Friends of Canadian Conservation (American Friends) launched the Conservation without Borders program. We are grateful to the McLean Foundation and Vancouver Foundation for providing core funding for this new initiative.

Our overarching goal is to increase the capacity of BC conservation organizations to secure important properties owned wholly or partly by US taxpayers – referred to as “cross-border conservation.” We will achieve that goal by ensuring that LTABC members know how US and Canadian income tax benefits make gifts of land financially attractive for U.S. owners. Conservation can be an important estate-planning tool!

In the first phase of Conservation without Borders, LTABC and American Friends will be working with land trusts to:

  • assess the opportunities for cross-border conservation
  • determine how best to support organizations serving areas with high levels of American ownership
  • provide resources and education for these organizations, and
  • create a framework and budget for a multi-year program, if we learn that LTABC members feel it would be valuable.

Two BC cross-border transactions – one on Mayne Island, the other on Gabriola Island – offer a glimpse into the potential impact and benefits from our Conservation without Borders program.

We are building on the excellent groundwork developed through a similar program in Ontario that concluded at the end of 2018, after three productive years. One product was Save Some Green: a handbook for US taxpayers who own land in Canada which is the single best resource for anyone interested in cross-border conservation incentives. LTABC and American Friends will be creating BC versions of some of the Ontario materials while also implementing new approaches based on lessons learned.

If our work and outreach during Phase I reveal that there is strong interest on the part of BC land trusts, and opportunities for important conservation outcomes, LTABC and American Friends will initiate additional phases of Conservation Without Borders.

For more information on the program, how to participate or to donate to help the partnership and cross-border conservation, contact Sandra Tassel, American Friends’ Program Coordinator, sandra.tassel@conservecanada.org or Paul McNair, Executive Director, LTABC, paul@ltabc.ca