Federal Ecological Gifts program marks milestone with 500th donation
ORILLIA, ONT-The Prairie Smoke nature reserve, near Orillia, Ont, has become Canada's 500th ecological gift, under the federal government's Ecological Gifts program. The property, donated by Karen Popp of Brechin, Ontario, to the Nature Conservancy of Canada, comprises 275 hectares of a rare type of habitat. It is part of the Carden Plain, home to globally rare occurrences of alvar, a prairie-like ecosystem situated over limestone bedrock. This seemingly harsh environment is not only home to many rare and uncommon species, it is in the centre of an internationally recognized Important Bird Area (IBA), providing essential habitat for one or more species of birds. "The donation of the Prairie Smoke property marks an important milestone in the Ecological Gifts program. It will become part of the 46,000 hectares of donated private land already in protection under this program - a significant contribution by Canadian landowners," said federal Environment Minister Rona Ambrose. The total value of ecological gift lands now stands at more than $150 million. The Ecological Gifts program enables landowners to create a natural legacy and protect family lands while benefiting from specific tax breaks. Most recently, a provision in the 2006 federal budget has exempted ecological gifts made after May 2, 2006 from capital gains inclusion for income tax purposes. An ecological gift is a donation of land or an interest in land - such as a conservation easement, covenant or servitude - that has been certified as "ecologically sensitive" according to specific national and provincial criteria, to an approved environmental charity or any level of government.