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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.

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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.

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The Journey to Ontario’s First Cross-border Conservation Easement – Echo Island

When Sam White’s heirs donated a conservation easement over Echo Island to American Friends of Canadian Conservation, they and the Rainy Lake Conservancy (RLC) completed a multi-year journey and reached a preservation milestone. Because this gift was the first of its kind in Ontario, the journey turned out to be a slow paddle rather than a fast ride in a speed boat! This is the story of how RLC, the donors and American Friends got there.

Everyone involved knew from the start there would be the legal equivalent of stormy waters as we developed an easement document acceptable to the Canadian Revenue Agency, the US Internal Revenue Service, and the Province. Fortunately we were a good paddling team and we arrived at our destination none the worse for wear. We, at RLC, are proud that we protected a rare piece of Ontario’s endangered White Pine habitat and charted a course for others who will embark on similar journeys to preserve special places in Ontario.

RLC works to conserve lands and waters treasured by Canadians and Americans. Our area includes the famous Boundary Waters Wilderness Canoe Area, Quetico Provincial Park, the Rainy Lake Islands Conservation Reserve and many other protected places.

A number of metaphorical shoals created by title issues, appraisal questions and government procedures slowed us down at times. Passion, patience and good humor kept us all going to the end.

Having survived our maiden voyage, we are now in the process of protecting 3 more properties on Rainy Lake with American Friends. It has been rewarding to work with such professionals. They are first and foremost individuals committed to conservation, a shared goal that drives land trusts to venture into uncharted waters!

Dale and Phyllis Callaghan, Rainy Lake Conservancy

Dale and Phyllis Callaghan, Rainy Lake Conservancy

For more information, contact Dale and Phyllis Callaghan, Rainy Lake Conservancy, info@rainlakeconservancy.org.