NCC purchase of Cockburn Island property complete

COCKBURN ISLAND—The Nature Conservancy of Canada (NCC) has announced it has purchased and now owns title to just over 22,300 acres of property on Cockburn Island.

“We are very excited about all of this,” said John Grant of the NCC in an interview with the Recorder last Friday. He confirmed, “The (NCC) has acquired the title to just over 22,300 acres of property on Cockburn Island and the fact that the deal closed on the 50th anniversary of the NCC just added to it.”

As reported previously, the NCC had announced it had an unprecedented opportunity to purchase 60 percent of Lake Huron’s Cockburn Island for conservation. The island is the 10th highest conservation priority in the Great Lakes. NCC had been looking to raise the remaining $5 million in gifts and pledges by mid-December in order to conserve the land forever.

The total budget for the Cockburn Island project is $15.2 million, of which $10.2 had been pledged by early September. The pledges include $5 million from an anonymous but passionate American conservationist who sees this project as an opportunity to give back both to nature and to the Great Lakes communities. The donor said they will make this incredible donation to the Cockburn Island project if NCC is successful in raising the remainder of funds necessary to make the project a reality.

“We decided a while back not to let this golden opportunity slip by so we decided to obtain bridge financing just in case we weren’t able to raise the full amount by mid-December,” said Mr. Grant. “As you can imagine we’re really working to raise the funds necessary and hoping people will continue to support us and this project this year and next.”

Mr. Grant said, “but, I can tell you that we haven’t quite finished raising the amount of money we needed to, but the sale has taken place.”

After the original announcement of the proposed purchase had taken place, concerns had been raised by Cockburn council, area groups and individuals, including those on Manitoulin, about whether the land would become tax exempt, leaving a tax burden on local residents and with traditional land use remaining intact. However, as reported in the October 19, 2012 edition of the Recorder, David Haight, reeve of Cockburn said after a meeting with NCC representatives, “the meeting went very well, and basically Mr. Grant confirmed everything the NCC had confirmed in a recent letter to council.” The letter stated that it is not the intention of NCC that municipal revenues would be diminished and that there would not be substantial changes made to traditional land uses.

Mr. Haight said in the Recorder story, “we are still working on the tax exemption issue. We need to look closer at this, but they (NCC) have said whatever is not provided by the province (with loss of taxes) they will come up with any difference there may be they will help us. We won’t be losing a lot even if they get tax exemption status and what difference there is the NCC has indicated they will make this up.” He also noted, “as for the uses of the property, they are going to work with us and get our input and comment on all uses we want to see take place in the master plan, including, for instance, hunting, ATVs and trail use.”

“We’ve had good conversations with the mayor and council, and have started talking about a management plan, and a draft plan will be in the works in the next few months, with the input of the mayor and council and the community, as there seems to be a lot of community interest,” said Mr. Grant.

“This is one of the big things we are focusing on, and we have a good relationship with the council and the local residents,” continued Mr. Grant. “I will be on the Island and be available in the summer and fall, to talk to and get input from members of the community. We look forward to working with everyone in the community.”

Tom Sasvari