Ecological gifts: assessing ecological sensitivity

There is no formal application form. Instead the donor, often in cooperation with the recipient, collects the following information and sends it to the regional Ecological Gifts Program coordinator or a delegated certification authority for review:

  • the full name, e-mail address, and mailing address of each donor, and written confirmation of each donor’s willingness to take part in the Program and ownership of the subject property;
  • the name, address, and charitable registration number (if applicable) of the recipient, and confirmation that the recipient is eligible to receive ecological gifts (registered charities must be deemed eligible by Environment Canada);
  • the complete legal description of the property under a land titles act or land registry system (general descriptions are not acceptable);
  • the type of donation--fee simple or conservation easement, covenant, or servitude--and, in the case of a partial interest in land, a final or dated copy of the agreement (the terms of which must regard and protect the ecologically sensitive features of the land);
  • the surveyed area (or approximate area, if not surveyed), in hectares or acres, of the land being donated (if an easement applies to only a portion of the site, record both the gifted and total areas);
  • a brief assessment (approximately two pages) of the ecological character of the proposed ecological gift lands, including relevant provincial or territorial criteria (see list below); and
  • information on the current status of the donation, why it is being made, the anticipated timing of completion, and the recipient’s intentions for the future management or enhancement of the land.

Some provinces have different requirements. For more information, contact a regional Ecological Gifts Program coordinator.

The brief assessment of the ecological sensitivity of the proposed ecological gift lands should demonstrate that national and, if applicable, provincial/territorial criteria have been met. If the proposed donation is a covenant, easement, or servitude, applicants may provide a copy of the baseline report in support of their request for certification, as these reports typically contain the information needed to determine whether a property qualifies as ecologically sensitive.

The following information should be included in the assessment:

  • a summary of the property’s ecological values and ecological gift criteria, and an assessment of the present condition of and threats to the site;
  • the proportion of the total area of the property that comprises different habitat types (e.g., wetland, forest, grassland), and whether there are water courses, shorelines, cliffs, dunes, or other special features present;
  • a description of any significant species known to be present;
  • a description of any buildings or other permanent structures on the property;
  • a list of any reports or documents in which the diversity of the flora or fauna on the site has been described;
  • reference to any local, regional, national, international, or other formal ranking of the significance of the site, and to the reports in which this ranking is noted;
  • any site enhancement or rehabilitation measures proposed to upgrade the ecological quality of the property; and
  • maps and aerial photographs of the site delineating the area and location of the donation.

National Criteria for Ecological Sensitivity

Both the existing environmental values of the land and those that may result from conservation initiatives are included in the consideration of what is ecologically sensitive. The following national criteria currently apply:

  • areas identified, designated or protected by a local, provincial, territorial, national or international system or body as ecologically significant or ecologically important;
  • natural spaces of significance to the environment in which they are located;
  • sites that have significant current ecological value, or potential for enhanced ecological value, as a result of their proximity to other significant properties;
  • municipal or rural lands that are zoned or designated for biodiversity objectives;
  • natural buffers around environmentally sensitive areas such as water bodies, streams or wetlands; and
  • areas or sites that contribute to the maintenance of biodiversity or Canada's environmental heritage.

Regional Ecological Sensitivity Criteria - Ontario

A. Specific Categories of Qualified Lands

Lands, easements or covenants relative to such lands, which fall into one or more of the following categories shall be deemed to be ecologically sensitive lands in Ontario. This is provided terms of easements or covenants regard and protect the ecologically sensitive features of the land.

  • A1. Significant portions of the habitat of federally or provincially listed species at risk, including endangered or threatened species, or species of special concern;
  • A2. Areas designated as Provincially Significant Wetlands;
  • A3. Provincial or regional Areas of Natural and Scientific Interest;
  • A4. Designated Areas of Concern for biodiversity purposes as identified in Forest Management Plans;
  • A5. Lands that are registered under the Conservation Land Tax Incentive Program;
  • A6. Areas that are registered under the Managed Forest Tax Incentive Program that are managed for wildlife habitat conservation purposes under an approved Managed Forest Plan;
  • A7. Areas promoting the conservation of natural heritage and biodiversity that are identified within a regional or watershed plan or strategy developed by a recognized conservation organization;
  • A8. Areas designated as a World Heritage Site for biodiversity conservation purposes, a core area of a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve, or a Wetland of International Importance under the Ramsar Convention;
  • A9. Areas of biodiversity significance identified in a Canadian Heritage Rivers Management Plan or Strategy;
  • A10. Areas designated in the Niagara Escarpment Plan as an Escarpment Protection Area or an Escarpment Natural Area;
  • A11. Areas designated as Natural Core, Natural Linkage, Sensitive Hydrological Feature, High Aquifer Vulnerability, Significant Landform, Minimum Areas of Influence or Minimum Vegetation Protection Zones within the Oak Ridges Moraine Conservation Plan;
  • A13. Areas designated for biodiversity conservation purposes within Management Plans or Strategies for the Trent-Severn or Rideau Waterways;
  • A14. Areas within a municipal official plan or zoning by-law under the Planning Act (Ontario) designated as an Environmentally Sensitive Area, Environmentally Significant Area, Environmental Protection Area, Restoration Area, Natural Heritage System or other designation for similar purposes that are compatible with the conservation of the biodiversity, ecological features and functions of the site;
  • A15. Areas within or adjacent to a Provincial Park, Provincial Park Reserve, Conservation Reserve, Conservation Area, Wilderness Area, Provincial Wildlife Area, National Wildlife Area, Migratory Bird Sanctuary, National Park, National Park Reserve or Ecological or Nature Reserve managed by a government or non-government agency;
  • A17. Areas identified as Carolinian Canada sites or Carolinian core natural areas and corridors as designated by the Big Picture, natural area mapping program;
  • A18. Areas designated as Core Natural Area, Natural Area Buffer, Natural Area Link, or Valued Ecosystem Component in the National Capital Greenbelt Master Plan by the National Capital Commission; and
  • A19. Areas designated for biodiversity purposes by regional agencies such as the Niagara Parks Commission, St. Clair Parkway Commission, St. Lawrence Parks Commission and the Waterfront Regeneration Trust.

B. General Criteria for Other Ecologically Sensitive Lands

Lands, easements or covenants relative to such lands, that meet one or more of the following general criteria may also be considered to be ecologically sensitive lands in Ontario -- subject to the approval of the federal Minister of the Environment or a person delegated by the Minister for this purpose (the term "significant" for the purposes below refers to definitions provided in Provincial Policy Statements): This is provided terms of easements or covenants regard and protect the ecologically sensitive features of the land.

  • B1. Significant habitats such as alvars, prairies, cliffs, Great Lakes coastal habitats, old growth forest areas, glacial relic communities and sites with enduring geological features that contribute to biodiversity;
  • B2. Areas of wildlife concentration such as bat caves, snake hibernacula, heronries, deer wintering yards and sites used by migratory water birds and other species for seasonal staging, feeding, breeding and like purposes;
  • B3. Areas identified, designated or protected as ecologically significant or ecologically important by a government or non-government local, provincial, national or international system or body;
  • B4. Significant water bodies, rivers, streams, shorelines, valleys, wetlands, groundwater recharge areas, headwaters and aquifers;
  • B5. Significant wildlife or fish habitats;
  • B6. Significant woodlands;
  • B7. Areas that have significant current or potential for enhanced ecological values through restoration, remediation, management or geographic proximity to other ecologically significant properties;
  • B8. Natural buffers and adjacent lands around areas identified under other ecologically sensitive lands categories or criteria that contribute to the conservation of biodiversity;
  • B9. Natural links or corridors between areas identified under other ecologically sensitive lands categories or criteria that contribute to the conservation of biodiversity;
  • B10. Areas used for long-term scientific study or baseline and benchmark monitoring of biodiversity; and
  • B11. Areas that contribute to Canada's environmental heritage through the maintenance of the genetic diversity of species, ecosystem health, or landscape biodiversity, and other natural spaces of significance to the environment in which they are located.

The categories and criteria listed above, for the purposes of implementation of provisions in the Income Tax Act for ecological gifts, have been agreed to by representatives of the Governments of Ontario and Canada. This list and criteria may be further elaborated and amended by agreement between Environment Canada and the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources.

Regional Ecological Sensitivity Criteria - Quebec

In Quebec, the criteria for ecological gifts are set by the Ministère du Développement durable, de l’Environnement et Lutte contre les changements climatiques . The ecological values Certificate of the property being donated is also issued through the Regional Offices of the Ministry (In French Only).

The relevant regional directorate of the Quebec Department of Sustainable Development, Environment and the fight against climate change determines the ecological value of the property on the basis of one or more of the following criteria:

  • The property includes a natural area serving as a buffer between a development zone and a site of ecological value (e.g. lake, marsh, pond, forest) or a natural area adjacent to an already protected site.
  • The property is a degraded but uncontaminated natural site that could be restored within a reasonable time period.
  • The property has natural features that justify a conservation interest, namely (non-exhaustive list):
      • biological features, i.e. related to life or living organisms (e.g. site serving as a reservoir for individuals of one or more species to compensate for habitat loss or fragmentation or to offset the effects of harvesting)
      • plant features, i.e. related to all plant species growing in a given region or location (e.g. rare species, forest stands, specific plant communities, alvars)
      • wildlife features, i.e. related to the animals in a given region or location (e.g. rare species, staging areas, wildlife corridors, wintering sites, feeding grounds)
      • ecological features, i.e. related to the environment in which living organisms exist and to the relationships between the organisms and the environment (e.g. peat bogs, wetlands, lakes, forests)
      • geological features, i.e. related to knowledge of the Earth and its surface, the history of its components, and changes in their arrangement (e.g. limestone outcrops, serpentine, alvars, dikes, meteor or volcanic craters, fossil beds, grottos, faults)
      • geomorphologic features, i.e. related to terrestrial landforms (e.g. drainage divides between major watersheds, eskers, moraine complexes, terminal moraines, dune complexes, old deltas, kames and kettles, marine terraces dating back to the last deglaciation)
      • landscape features, i.e. related to a part of an area that is naturally visible to an observer (e.g. cliffs, waterfalls, glacial valleys, unimpeded views of a landscape that is unique to or typical of a region)

From a broader perspective, the assessment may also consider geographic and social features:

  • contribution of the gift to the quality of life of the local or regional community
  • potential to use the gift for education, research, ecotourism (non-intensive), etc.
  • threats to the ecological integrity of the gift due to increased public access
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