History advises caution on Nature Conservancy assurances

To the Expositor:

This is a response to the October 3, page 5 letter to the editor ‘Nature Conservancy answers some Cockburn Island concerns.’

This article clearly indicates that the Nature Conservancy of Canada (NCC) intends to have land purchased on Cockburn Island designated tax exempt by the Municipal Property Assessment Corporation. To avoid negative public reaction, Mr. Duncan assures Mayor Haight and the Council of Cockburn Island that the Managed Forest Tax Incentive could be a solution to the loss of tax revenue resulting from NCC purchase of 24,000 acres on Cockburn Island. Those of us who have been personally involved in the Managed Forest Program know that this is not a viable solution to Cockburn Island’s problems.

When the Managed Forest Tax Incentive program was first introduced it was a win-win situation for both the landowner and the municipalities. The designation of land under the managed forest program required that the landowner carry out a program of constructive forest management. In return, the province rebated 75 percent of the land taxes to the municipality. Unfortunately, as the program became more popular and costly, the province downloaded the impending financial burden to the municipal governments. While we Northerners shudder at the thought of 40 percent of Cockburn Island landowners covering the 75 percent tax shortfall for the wealthy NCC, it appears that Mr. Duncan has little empathy, regarding this as a minor subsidy to encourage development of wildlife habitat. Sadly, this appears to be another example of the contempt that the Nature Conservancy shows toward the residents of Northern Ontario. If the original, provincially subsidized managed forest program is so readily available for NCC land, why haven’t the townships of Western Manitoulin Island received this wonderful deal?

Also, it would be interesting to see if Mr. Duncan would personally participate in planting thousands of trees to improve the existing wildlife habitat.

Mr. Duncan also promises that since there is a long standing tradition of deer hunting on Cockburn Island, the NCC does not expect there to be any substantial change from the current approach. This was not the case for Dawson and Robinson Townships. When their land was purchased by NCC, hunters faced a substantial increase in landowner “permission to hunt” fees. Township residents were also upset by the strict restrictions on access through NCC properties.

Mayor Haight and Councillors of Cockburn Island, just a final word of caution: Dawson and Robinson Townships were also presented with glowing projections and promises that were never fulfilled after the NCC purchase was finalized.

Wayne Bailey