“Buy land. They’re not making it anymore” – Mark Twain
Conservation Halton is the largest, non-provincial government, landowner in our watershed with more than 10,500 acres (4,200 hectares) of land featuring creeks, forests and wetlands under our ownership and management. This land has all been acquired to support the natural heritage of the area and to both protect the natural resources on which we rely and protect people from impacts caused by loss of this land – such as increased flooding. In addition, some, less than 10% of the total area we manage, of this land is enjoyed by hundreds of thousands of people a year who visit our conservation areas to enjoy the outdoor recreation opportunities.
Being a landowner is driven by Conservation Halton’s mandate of watershed protection, flood and water management as well as environmental reasons such as the preservation and protection of drinking water sources, species habitat, and significant features such as forests and wetlands.
The History of Land Ownership
The story of land ownership starts in the early days of Conservation Halton. The Sixteen Mile Creek Conservation Authority (one of our founding organizations) established the Esquesing Conservation Area in 1958 and Sixteen Mile Valley Conservation Area in 1959. That same year, the Twelve Mile Creek Conservation Authority (Conservation Halton’s other founding organization) acquired 88 acres of prominent escarpment land to prevent expansion of a quarry operation. This soon became the Mount Nemo Conservation Area and ultimately led to the formation of a committee to evaluate the escarpment in the province. This eventually resulted in the approval of the Niagara Escarpment Plan in 1985.
Throughout the 1960’s more acquisitions were made with the purpose of developing flood control infrastructure – our dams – which secondarily, led to the creation of popular conservation areas like Kelso and Mountsberg. At the same time, to secure section of the Niagara Escarpment and protect the forests and habitats of those areas, Conservation Halton acquired Rattlesnake Point, which was also opened as a Conservation Area to enable people to experience the escarpment.
In the 1970’s and 1980’s Conservation Halton was in a land acquisition mode for the purpose of constructing further dams and the urban channels in Milton, Burlington and Oakville, to protect the communities in its watershed. The dam at Hilton Falls Conservation Area was opened in 1973 and was the last of the four dams Conservation Halton owns and operates to be constructed. This system of dams and channels continues to perform an important function in our watershed to protect the communities of Burlington, Milton and Oakville during storms from riverine flooding.
The focus shifted a bit in the 1990’s and Conservation Halton looked to secure lands which had natural heritage value with the intent being to increase the connectivity of natural systems, and creating corridors for wildlife to move. Preserving and protecting these lands also protects the air we breathe and the water we drink.
Why We Own
So you might ask why it is important to protect land in public ownership. Conservation Halton’s watershed lies within an area with significant planning protection from policies like the Niagara Escarpment Plan, the Provincial Greenbelt Plan and other regulations. However, those policies could change over time based on factors like development pressures as the population continues to grow in our watershed. Keeping important cultural and natural heritage land in public ownership is one way to ensure it is protected for years to come. This is why Conservation Halton believes that the only true form of permanent protection for land is for it to be secured by a publically accountable agency.
Land Securement Strategy
Through its Land Securement Strategy, Conservation Halton is seeking opportunities with private landowners to secure land of natural heritage value or enter into an agreement to protect these lands. Landowners looking to do so have a number of options, donating all or in part which can be beneficial to the landowner from a tax basis, or selling it, which is less common. Conservation Authorities can utilize special land acquisition allowances available under the Conservation Authorities Act to acquire a portion of a parcel of land. For example, we can enter into donation or purchase agreements for the natural portion of a property with the landowner retaining the existing residence or building lot.
Securement is just one way in which landowners can work with Conservation Halton to enhance the protection that their land contributes to the watershed and many securement opportunities are preceded by landowners working with our Stewardship and/or Forestry teams in enhancing the natural heritage value of the lands that they look after. For some of these landowners, ensuring that their years of dedication to the landscape are protected in perpetuity is the reason that they work with us on securement projects.
We invite landowners interested in exploring conservation options to reach out to us by calling 905-336-1158 or visit our website www.conservationhalton.ca.
Written by Niall Lobley, Manager, Risk & Land Holdings Services, and Norm Miller, Manager of Communications Services
Last modified: September 5, 2017