When Claude Doucet bought his land, Quebec’s Agricultural Protection Law did not yet exist. With this new law, at the beginning of the 1980’s, Mount Pinnacle was zoned green because it was, for the most part, a sugarbush. “Ten years later, 800 acres on the peak and the north face of the Pinnacle were rezoned white to allow a ski hill, golf course and condominium project, which resulted in a huge controversy,” he explains. Mr. Doucet was deeply concerned by this situation, joining forces with other residents to put a stop to this decision and to support the introduction of municipal bylaws to control development. “It was in this context that Mount Pinnacle Land Trust was created, acquiring 143 acres of the mountain in order to preserve these natural areas from all forms of development. I thus became an active member of the Land Trust from the very beginning.”
For many years Mr. Doucet dreamed of protecting his property. “After several meetings with Mount Pinnacle Land Trust and the Appalachian Corridor team, I opted for the conservation servitude. They explained the process of establishing a servitude and they supported me every step of the way”.
It was the fear of zoning changes on Mount Pinnacle that motivated Mr. Doucet to give a conservation servitude to the Land Trust. “Zoning regulations have become more and more fragile. I see all around me how relatively easy it is to rezone a property and to allow other land uses. Municipalities can also change their zoning plans every five years. That is also fragile. It is therefore up to the landowners to protect the land from such changes. With a conservation servitude you ensure the protection of natural areas forever, even if you sell the land or bequeath it to your children.” Mr. Doucet hopes that by setting an example his neighbors will become aware of the “natural richness” of their part of the world.
As one of the steps leading to the servitude, a conservation plan was developed by biologists in order to determine the ecological value of the property and the key elements to be protected. “In my forest, biologists noted the presence of the Red-Shouldered Hawk, a bird of prey nesting and feeding in mature forests. I have the pleasure of providing this threatened species with a high quality habitat!”.
Victor & Elisabeth AllistoneIn 1961, Victor and Elisabeth Allistone purchased a 10-acre farm in Sutton. During the 1970s, they purchased adjacent properties and ended up owners of 479 acres of land on the flanks of Mount Gagnon. Elisabeth remembers: “We were extremely interested in forestry techniques with a view to conservation and reforestation”. A specific section of their property, located near the summit of Mount Gagnon, is occupied by a hardwood forest over a hundred years old. “In the Sutton Mountains there are few such woods. We decided to preserve this wealth forever by donating this part of the woodlands to a conservation organisation” explains Elisabeth. After several exploratory meetings, they went through the ecological donation process for their 32-acre century forest.
Monts Sutton“Numerous initiatives with resource people from Nature Conservancy Canada, the Ministère de l’Environnement du Québec and Environment Canada, as well as with chartered Land Appraisers, were needed to succeed with our aims. It all began with an excellent ecological evaluation of our property, performed by Louise Gratton, who is the Scientific Advisor for Appalachian Corridor. We learned, among other things, that all through our woods runs a section of brook that houses the Spring Salamander, a species endangered in Canada. Our century forest is also carpeted with Wild Leek. All of this and more convinced us of the rightness of what we were doing” adds Elisabeth.
Ever since the Allistones undertook to make this ecological donation, they received numerous messages of appreciation from their neighbours and within the community groups in which they are active. “In this area, we are something of a pioneer, and I hope that our gesture will inspire other landowners to undertake voluntary conservation initiatives in the Sutton Mountains area” concludes Elisabeth. Following on from this first project, the Allistones protected additional adjacent lands in perpetuity with the Mount Echo Conservation Association (MECA).
“In 1984, my husband and I decided to reorient our lives. I wanted to keep access to our 700 acres of land to go walking my dogs and, above all, we wanted to make sure that upon our deaths, this natural jewel would be preserved in its wilderness state, but we didn’t know how that could be accomplished.”
Ms. Stansje PlantengaI was looking for a way to protect my land and the valley as a whole, not by myself, but with people who, like me, are sensitive to the importance of taking care of the valley and protecting its beauty in perpetuity. In 1987, we created the Ruiter Valley Land Trust by making a donation of 400 acres of land. We solicited the support of lawyers, scientists, fundraising professionals and representatives of American Land Trusts to get the project off the ground and to form our first Board of Directors. The concept was so innovative that we had to do battle at the government level just to obtain the status of non-profit organization capable of issuing charitable receipts!”
“The conservation servitude is, in my opinion, the most effective tool for preserving the integrity of natural habitats on private land. The servitude is based on a cooperative approach between the property owner and the Trust. In 2001, I decided to donate another part of my property (80 acres) as well as two conservation servitudes (24 acres). As I come from overseas, from the Netherlands, I have a different perspective on the Appalachian Corridor territory. I see this area as being part of a northern geographic ensemble, where there are still tracts of wilderness and where their integrity is in greater and greater peril. This region possesses a natural treasure and it is our responsibility, collectively, to protect it. It is a gift for humanity.”