What is a land trust?
Land trusts, also known as land conservancies, are charitable organizations that actively work to conserve land with natural, recreational, scenic, historical or agricultural value.
These organizations create public benefit through education programs, "community services", and the creation of passive recreational opportunities, thereby improving the quality of life for all citizens.
Land trusts accept donations and bequests of land and conservation agreements, and in some cases may purchase land or conservation agreements. The land is then permanently protected to preserve its conservation, heritage or agricultural values. Land trusts are supported by memberships and donations from generous residents in the community they serve.
Are land trusts government agencies?
No, they are independent, entrepreneurial organizations that work with private landowners who are interested in protecting open space.
Land trusts often work cooperatively with government agencies by partnering to acquire or manage land, researching open space needs and priorities, or assisting in the development of community open space plans.
Who is the Thames Talbot Land Trust?
TTLT was incorporated in 2000 as a Canadian Registered Charity.
It has an open general membership which is responsible for annually electing a volunteer Board of Directors. The TTLT employs a full-time Executive Director and a Development and Communications Officer. The TTLT is audited annually and financial statements are available upon request.
How many properties does the TTLT currently own or manage?
The TTLT presently owns 14 properties and holds one conservation easement, protecting over 1000 acres. Visit Our Properties page for more details.
What are the geographic boundaries of the Trust?
Our area of focus includes London / Middlesex, Elgin County and their contingent watersheds.
What type of land does the TTLT protect?
TTLT protects lands and waters of natural, agricultural and cultural significance.
How does TTLT acquire land?
As a charity, the preferred method to acquire land is by donation. This can be either through an outright gift or an interest in the land known as a Conservation Easement/Agreement. In cases of available properties in high priority areas the TTLT may also purchase properties.
What does the land donation process entail?
The process starts with no obligations. Interested landowners contact the TTLT and we arrange to visit and assess the property. If both parties wish to proceed, based on mutually agreed priorities, we jointly sign a Letter of Intent to Donate.
From that point we compile the following:
Baseline documentation (inventory and mapping)
Financial Plan (transfer costs and future stewardship)
Survey, Environmental Assessment and Appraisal
In many case land donations will be certified as Eco-Gifts by the Canadian Wildlife Service.
Negotiations and inspections are carried out by the Land Securement Committee and approved by the Board of Directors.
Are there any tax implications if I donate property to the TTLT?
Each case is unique and donors need to consult their own financial advisor before finalizing any agreements, however, there are often substantial tax benefits arising from a donation of land.
The TTLT will issue a charitable receipt for the appraised value of the property at the date of transfer. Donations of natural lands which qualify as Eco-Gifts receive favourable status under the Income Tax Act in that they are exempt from Capital Gains taxes.
I want to donate my land but only to a group that will maintain it in its existing natural state. Can you guarantee this will happen if I donate it to you?
TTLT respects the wishes of its donors and holds comprehensive discussions with prospective donors regarding the future of the property in the process leading up to the donation.
Donors typically help to develop the conservation principles that will guide future management. However, TTLT avoids binding conditions because as managers of the land in perpetuity we cannot know what circumstances may arise 50, 100 or 1,000 years from now. We avoid words such as "never" and "always". TTLT has strong policies and ascribes to the Canadian Land Trust Standards and Practices. We would not manage a property in a manner inconsistent with those polices or our own Aims and Objects.
In the case of Eco-Gifts there are federal controls over what we may do with donated land.
Do you ever foresee a time when the TTLT would sell any of its properties?
Our primary intent is to hold property in perpetuity. TTLT may, at its discretion, accept donations of property as "Trade Lands" for the express purpose of selling such lands to support other projects. If this were the intent of the TTLT, it would be made clear during the land donation process.
What type of financial planning do you do before you purchase a property or accept one as a donation?
There are always costs associated with the transfer of ownership, regardless of whether a property is donated or purchased. These include legal fees, transfer taxes and registration costs, surveys, management plans and appraisals. There may also be immediate stewardship expenses to bring the property up to standards.
Most importantly, there is the need for a stewardship endowment for each property to provide income for its ongoing maintenance. TTLT carefully estimates these costs and secures the required funding through gifts, fundraising and grants before accepting a property.
Do you ever refuse properties? Why?
For every successfully completed project we typically have eight to ten preliminary inquiries that do not progress for a number of reasons on the part of either the landowner or the TTLT. We will decline properties that do not fit within our strategic objectives.
What say do I have in future management?
Landowners usually help TTLT shape the conservation principles that will guide future stewardship. Donors are also encouraged to continue their involvement with the property by being a member of the volunteer Stewards Committee and sharing their knowledge with others.
Once the property belongs to the TTLT, the Board of Directors hold the final responsibility for all decisions.
If I donate my property, who will maintain it? What type of maintenance will be done? What do you do about trespassing and security?
Each TTLT property has a Stewards Committee comprised of local volunteers who act as the eyes and ears of the trust and who regularly inspect the property. The Stewards also help develop annual work plans for the property and participate in volunteer work days. For larger tasks, the TTLT employs local contractors to undertake required activities.
The management plan will differ for each property but the basics include looking out for invasive species, maintaining signage and fences, removing litter, keeping any trails open and removing any hazards.
What do you do with a property once you have ownership and it has been restored to its natural state? Who has access? What types of activities are permitted?
The management plan for each property will include its intended uses. Some properties will be closed conservation areas; others have trail systems and interpretive signage to welcome the public.
Specific uses are determined at the time of acquisition. Passive recreation such as hiking is generally encouraged. Uses that are incompatible with conservation goals are prohibited, including motorized vehicles, mountain biking, off-leash dogs, removing vegetation, camping, and horseback riding.
How does the Trust ensure it will be able to maintain properties in the future?
Each TTLT property has a stewardship endowment. This is a sum of capital that is invested to produce an annual income equal to the anticipated fixed costs of ownership such as insurance, taxes, monitoring and maintenance. The capital is retained with only the interest being spent each year.
How does the Trust protect its financial capital to care for the lands forever?
Stewardship Endowments are held within the TTLT Fund at the London Community Foundation. This professionally managed pool of investments produces a reliable annual return and also preserves the capital through re-investment.
What happens if TTLT folds?
Our policy of securing stewardship funds with each new property makes this unlikely. In the event of the dissolution of a charity, Canadian law requires that its assets pass to another charity with similar aims and objects (e.g. Nature Conservancy of Canada). The stewardship endowments would go with the properties.
Where do you get your money?
Most of our money comes from our donors, members, and corporate sponsors.
Our biggest gifts to date have come from private individuals donating either cash or land or both. Most notably we have received over $1.5 million from Richard and Beryl Ivey. We have also received important and timely gifts and grants from numerous corporations and individuals. In addition, we make grant applications to a wide range of private foundations and government programs.
All donations to TTLT are eligible for tax credits.
I want my donation to go toward maintaining a specific property. Is that possible?
Certainly. We can add any amount to the Stewardship endowment at the London Community Foundation. Donors can also contribute directly to the TTLT fund at London Community Foundation.
What is the Opportunities Fund?
TTLT was granted special permission by the Canadian Revenue Agency to accumulate funds for the purposes of land securement. This is important to the operation of TTLT as charities must normally expend donated funds within a shorter time frame.
When properties become available the TTLT must often move quickly and the Opportunities Fund allows it to maintain a war chest for this purpose. Donors are encouraged to name the Opportunities Fund in their will or to make legacy gifts in their lifetimes. The Fund was inaugurated with a $1 million gift of the Ivey Natural Land Legacy.
My church group/school group/association is looking to get involved with a restoration project. Do you have any projects for us?
Contact us. We have many opportunities throughout the year for volunteers to undertake work at any one of our sites. Tasks may include planting, invasive species control, clean up and trail maintenance. The TTLT's goals are benefitted greatly from dedicated volunteers.
Do you do any landscape restoration on lands not owned by the trust? Can you recommend someone who does?
TTLT does not undertake projects on private land except in those cases where we hold a conservation easement. We will gladly connect you with other sources of assistance such as your local conservation authority or stewardship council.
Still have a question?
Contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org