Canadian Conservation is Our Business – and Our Name

When Canadian and American conservation professionals created the U.S. charity named American Friends of Canadian Land Trusts in 2006, they expected land trusts would partner with the new organization to protect Canada’s natural heritage. And they were right! Since completing our first land donation in 2011, American Friends of Canadian Conservation and its land trust partners in five provinces have permanently protected approximately 3,000 acres comprising 26 high priority properties. These land and easement gifts from over 40 individual US taxpayers have an appraised value of close to $17M USD. In addition, in the past six years alone, Friends has made grants totaling nearly $3.5M USD to its Canadian partners.

Happily, over the years, government agencies, First Nations, educational institutions and a variety of conservation advocacy entities have also advanced their conservation missions through partnerships with American Friends.

Recently, American Friends’ board decided the organization needed a new name to better reflect the full range of current and potential partnerships. They chose American Friends of Canadian Conservation to express the full spectrum of possible collaborations and the extent of the impact we hope to have within the Canadian conservation community.

The majority of American Friends’ completed land and conservation easement transactions were collaborations with Canadian land trusts. They range from some of Canada’s largest and most capable, including Nova Scotia Nature Trust and Bruce Trail Conservancy, to some of the newest, all-volunteer organizations. American Friends’ commitment to Canada’s land trust community is unwavering. We have seen how much value our cooperative projects have produced in terms of mentoring, experience, financial support and mission achievement. Building a bigger network of entities involved in cross-border conservation will also help American Friends build its own capacity to assist land trusts by making our organization more sustainable.

We are delighted by the cross-border conservation and funding opportunities American Friends is receiving from government agencies and other partners such as provincial parks agencies, municipal governments and Ontario conservation authorities. We’ve recently begun working with First Nations too. This wider array of partners means that American Friends is able to better achieve its dual objectives of protecting ecologically significant lands in Canada that are owned by US taxpayers and bringing additional financial support from the USA.

Educating all parties involved in cross-border conservation will also continue to be a high priority for American Friends of Canadian Conservation, because we can have an expansive impact by sharing our unique knowledge about bi-national tax incentives. The new website has updated and new resources for land conservation organizations, landowners and their professional advisors. Download and share Save Some Green: a handbook for US taxpayers who own land in Canada. This publication is a product of American Friends’ partnership with the Ontario Land Trust Alliance (OLTA) It is an excellent starting place for anyone who wants to understand the valuable financial incentives available to US landowners who donate title to or an easement on their Canadian properties. Print copies of Save Some Green are available from American Friends of Canadian Conservation or OLTA.

All of us at American Friends of Canadian Conservation look forward to working with our existing and future partners to increase financial and land donations from US taxpayers who care about a special part of Canada and want to protect strategic properties they own in a financially realistic way!

For more information please contact Program Coordinator, Sandra Tassel, at 360-515-7171  or by email at





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, or Paul McNair, Executive Director, LTABC,


American Friends’ Leaders Lauded in Ontario

Three individuals who have shaped cross-border conservation were recognized with awards by the Ontario Land Trust Alliance (OLTA). Current director Allyn Abbott and long-serving former director Christopher Baines were honored with the Angus McLeod Vision Award for volunteer service. Sandra Tassel, a former director and officer, who now serves as American Friends’ Program Coordinator, received the OLTA Vision Award for a land trust professional.

L to R, Alison Howson, Executive Director of Ontario Land Trust Alliance with award winners Sandra Tassel, Allyn Abbott and Christopher Baines (all associated with American Friends) and Shining Waters from RARE.

From OLTA’s website:

There were two recipients for the Angus McLeod Vision Award: Allyn Abbott and Christopher Baines.

“Allyn Abbott has been dedicated to the land trust movement for more than 14 years. She joined the board of Muskoka Heritage Trust in 2004. She lead the merger that formed the Muskoka Conservancy as its president and remains on the board and serves as chair of the Land Acquisition and Management Committee. Allyn willingly shares her knowledge to any staff and directors.”

Christopher Baines has been a “force of nature” and a “force for nature” within Ontario’s land trust community for over twenty-five years. He has been a triple-threat – or perhaps, more accurately, a triple advocate – for the land trust community, active at the local, provincial and international levels in a wide variety of capacities.

There was one recipient of the OLTA Vision award – Sandra Tassel.

Sandra Tassel serves as Program Coordinator for American Friends, applying nearly 30 years’ experience in conservation acquisitions in the U.S. and Canada. Through Sandy’s careful stewardship, American Friends has been the leading pioneer for cross-border conservation in Canada. In working with OLTA, its member organizations and collaborators, Sandy has been a creative, supportive and strategic ally and knowledgeable resource for Ontario’s land trust community.”

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

Conservation on Prince Edward Island, Island Nature Trust

American Friends’ newest partnership, with Island Nature Trust (INT), can contribute to national success on both fronts by helping to increase protected lands in the province of Prince Edward Island (PEI).

Beloved New Reserve Inspired by Happy Old Memories

Barry Graham says he “gets goosebumps” when he visits Magnetawan Watershed Land Trust’s (MWLT) new conservation area, known as the Old Man’s Creek Reserve. The 240 acre property, with its landmark waterfall, and namesake waterway, was one of the first in Ontario to be transferred from American Friends to a Canadian partner organization.

The lands and waters encompassed by the Reserve have been part of Graham’s life since he was an infant, and his family brought him from Rome, Georgia to their summer home on Ahmic Lake nearly 70 years ago. Graham, who is the
president of the MWLT board and now a resident of Washington DC, recalls canoeing across the lake to Old Man’s Creek.

Many other Ahmic Lake cottagers and local residents of the local community share fond memories of exploring this beautiful property. So there was widespread consternation when a developer bought the land and secured approval for a subdivision on the creek; threatening Ahmic Lake’s pristine water quality and closing access to the iconic falls.

To avoid destruction of their venerated retreat, area property owners formed MWLT to pursue its permanent protection. They were inspired by Ted Rouse, who promised to acquire the land and donate it for conservation if his neighbors created a conservation organization that could assist with a cross-border gift.

So it was that MWLT was one of American Friends’ early transaction partners, and Ted Rouse an essential early supporter. In 2012, he donated the majority of the land that is now the Reserve to American Friends. Since then MWLT has been managing the property to both preserve its natural qualities and make it available for visitors, young and old, to enjoy.

Graham reports that the public access has won fans from around the community, including elected officials who view the preserved land and trails as an asset for tourism.

Thanks to the generosity of Rouse and major contributors who acquired other parcels in the Reserve, and the efforts of volunteers from both MWLT and American Friends, Old Man’s Creek and the lands that surround it will remain undeveloped and as beautiful as Graham remembers them.

Download PDF of Article

Protect Canada’s natural heritage and your savings at the same time

Canadian land trusts – Share this bulletin with your U.S. Supporters.

The new U.S. tax law that went into effect on January 1, 2018 limits itemized deductions making it more difficult to lower your income taxes by making charitable gifts. But there is still an opportunity for you to help American Friends conserve places you love in Canada while also reducing your U.S. taxes. If you have an Individual Retirement Account (IRA) and are over the age of 70 1/2, you can donate to American Friends using funds in your IRA, and avoid tax on the Required Minimum Distribution (RMD) from your tax-deferred retirement account.

Your RMD is the minimum amount you must withdraw from your IRA, SEP IRA, SIMPLE IRA, or retirement plan account each year. Your withdrawals will generally be included in your annual taxable income.

Qualified Charitable Distribution (QCD) is an otherwise taxable distribution that is paid directly from your IRA to a qualified charity, such as American Friends. You can satisfy all or part the amount of your RMD by making a QCD, while not adding to your taxable income. You can exclude up to $100,000 a year of distributions.

Your QCD will save natural lands in Canada for future generations while potentially providing additional tax benefits by lowering your overall adjusted gross income (AGI). Possible positive financial results include:

  • Reducing or eliminating tax on social security benefits
  • Lowering capital gains tax rates
  • Increasing amount of deductible medical expenses
  • Minimizing the net investment tax
  • Avoiding higher Medicare Part B premiums.

Talk to your tax professional to create a Qualified Charitable Distribution strategy to reduce your taxes and support American Friends and its Canadian partners. As always, you can request that American Friends use your contribution to make a grant to one of our qualified partner organizations.

Contact Sandra Tassel, Program Coordinator, American Friends of Canadian Conservation (360) 515-7171,, for more information about how to invest in Canada’s wild places.

Thanks to Gail Kruk (CPA, CGA), a cross-border tax specialist with Larson Gross, in Bellingham WA. (360) 734-4280,

Canada 150 certificate

American Friends’ leaders named to ‘Canada 150’ Conservation Honour Roll

American Friends is proud to acknowledge that Sandra Tassel, American Friends Program Coordinator and President of Look at the Land Inc, is one of the most recent inductees to the ‘Canada 150’ Conservation Honour Roll.