Eastern Garter Snake © Brittany Killingbeck

HNC Nature Sanctuaries and Land Trust Program

HNC’s Land Trust Program takes a nature-first approach to protect and steward important natural features in urban and rural areas.

For over half a century HNC has been working to protect ecologically significant lands through purchase, donation or long-term lease agreements. With the purchase of our Spooky Hollow Nature Sanctuary in 1961 the HNC became Ontario’s first land trust. Over the years the club has raised more than $1,000,000 for the permanent protection of natural areas through our nature sanctuaries and through support of acquisitions by other conservation groups.

The properties that the HNC owns and/or manages to permanently protect their natural heritage values are called Nature Sanctuaries – a reflection of the priority placed on maintaining and enhancing the natural features and ecological values of these sites.

Since 1961 HNC has:

  • acquired 10 nature sanctuaries which permanently protect over 500 acres of natural lands
  • stewarded an additional 60 acres
  • protected habitat for over 20 at risk species
  • created and maintained approximately 12km of trails at 4 nature sanctuaries (Spooky Hollow, Short Hills, Cartwright, and a short trail at Sheelah Dunn Dooley)

Stewardship costs to care for the nature sanctuaries are covered through grant applications as well as through donations to the HNC’s Sanctuary Fund, and the Habitat Preservation Endowment. Find out more about these funds or make a donation.

The Sanctuary Land Trust Committee advises the Land Trust Manager and Stewardship Technician in the day to day stewardship of the nature sanctuaries. Numerous volunteers are also depended upon to care for the nature sanctuaries with everything from trail maintenance to garbage cleanup to managing invasive plants. If you would like to help manage invasive plants at the nature sanctuaries, please contact the Land Trust Manager.

In four of our Nature Sanctuaries (Spooky Hollow, Short Hills, Cartwright, Sheelah Dunn Dooley) footpaths have been built to allow for walking, nature viewing and other low impact activities in a manner that will not negatively impact the ecological values of the site. There are existing trails not maintained by HNC at 2 others (Anita Dutka-Buchin and Vinemount Meadows). Horses, bicycles or motorized vehicles are not permitted in the nature sanctuaries nor is hunting, fishing or the removal of any natural materials. Geocaching is not permitted in the nature sanctuaries.

For more information on HNC Nature Sanctuaries, including finding out how to get involved, please contact our Land Trust Manager, Jen Baker, at land@hamiltonnature.org.

Contact Jen Baker, Land Trust Manager, at land@hamiltonnature.org for information or  questions about visiting the nature sanctuaries.

Information for Landowners

HNC’s Land Trust Program: Protecting Natural Lands

If you own land, or cherish a special place, what can you do to protect it forever? The Hamilton Naturalists’ Club’s (HNC) land trust program works with landowners to find the best way to meet our mutual conservation goals and the landowner’s tax and estate planning needs. HNC staff can provide technical and legal information on conservation strategies and on tax and other financial benefits of conservation. HNC also suggests that landowners get independent legal and financial advice.

There are a variety of options to ensure your land is permanently protected, including:

  • Outright donation of all or part of a property.
  • Donation of land with provision for continued use by the donor.
  • Sale at below market value with a charitable donation receipt for the difference between market value and the sale price (known as a split receipt).
  • Bequests of land through one’s will to create a nature sanctuary. In some cases, the HNC may consider purchase of high priority natural areas at market value.

To learn more or to talk to us about conservation options, please contact:
Jen Baker, Land Trust Manager
(905) 524-3339

Donor Story: Thomas and Mary Young Nature Sanctuary

In 2005, Dundas resident Lorraine Stewart donated land in the Beverly Swamp to the HNC. The resulting Thomas & Mary Young Nature Sanctuary serves as a permanent memorial to Ms. Stewart’s grandparents. It is managed to protect the provincially significant natural heritage values of the site. Ms. Stewart received a charitable donation receipt for the value of the land. Since the property is ecologically significant, the gift was eligible for preferred income tax treatment.

Information for Potential Donors (Non-Land Owners)

What can you do to help protect land forever?

The Hamilton Naturalists’ Club depends on the generous support we receive from members, friends, foundations, businesses and others to protect significant natural areas, restore habitats, create educational opportunities, and provide hands-on volunteer experiences. Donor support is the key to ensuring we can continue and build on more than 103 years of protecting nature for future generations. If you value open space, the natural environment, and your community, please consider a gift to the land trust program of the Hamilton Naturalists’ Club.

It’s an investment in your future!

  • Gifts or bequests of cash or assets to purchase a nature sanctuary in someone’s name or as a memorial.
  • Partnering with conservation-minded individuals or organizations to jointly acquire lands to protect nature.
  • Cash donations to support the acquisition and stewardship costs for new nature sanctuaries.
Donor Story: Sheelah Dunn Dooley Nature Sanctuary

HNC was able to permanently protected its 9th nature sanctuary in 2020 thanks to the incredible generosity of Sheelah and Martin Dooley. The 21.4 hectare Sheelah Dunn Dooley Nature Sanctuary is a mix of steep wooded ravine, open seasonally wet meadow, and shrub thicket habitats for numerous common and rare species.  Since the donation was to support the acquisition of an ecologically significant property, the gift was eligible for preferred income tax treatment.

To learn more or to talk to us about donation and conservation options, please contact:
Jen Baker, Land Trust Manager
Telephone 905.524.3339
Email land@hamiltonnature.org

FAQ: Permanently Protecting Land Through Securement

What is a land trust?

Land Trusts are conservation organizations that own land and/or hold interests in land, such as conservation easements, as part of their efforts to protect, enhance or restore natural areas, heritage features or agricultural lands. Land trusts work with landowners to take direct action in permanently protecting lands for conservation. Most land trusts are locally or regionally based with volunteer leadership and strong community links. The HNC became Ontario’s first land trust in 1961 with the purchase of our Spooky Hollow Nature Sanctuary.

Do I have to donate all of my property?

You can donate a portion of your property, such as the natural lands, and retain agricultural land, and/or land around buildings on the property. Donating a portion of your land to the HNC will help relieve the burden of liability associated with owning land.

What are the financial benefits of donating land to the HNC?

Donations of land or conservation easements can provide significant tax advantages. A third party, unbiased appraiser determines the value of the donation and the HNC issues a charitable receipt for this value. Donating land or conservation easements through Environment Canada’s Ecological Gifts Program provides enhanced tax savings that can be used against 100% of your total annual income over ten years plus the year of the donation. Environment Canada’s Ecogifts program certified organizations like the HNC to act as recipients of ecological gifts.

Will you accept any property?

The HNC has developed criteria to evaluate the potential of accepting properties. The criteria includes determining the environmental significance of the property, its long-term stewardship costs and its potential threats.

Will my property become a nature sanctuary?

Yes, all properties that the HNC secures become nature sanctuaries.

If I want to discuss this with someone, what is the next step?

The HNC would be happy to arrange a meeting and a site visit of your property. Please contact Jen Baker, Land Trust Manager, at 905-524-3339 or email land@hamiltonnature.org to make arrangements.