Backgrounder

Environment Canada's Ecological Gifts Program

Many wildlife species live in natural areas on private lands near the city or in the country. Landowners play an important role in maintaining this biodiversity when they choose to protect the natural features of their property.

What is an Ecological Gift?

An “EcoGift” is a donation of ecologically sensitive land, or a partial interest in ecologically sensitive land – such as a conservation easement, covenant or servitude – to a qualified recipient that protects this land in perpetuity. Ecological gifts are as varied in type as the Canadian landscape, ranging from wetlands, shores and forests, to grasslands and rocky cliffs. A wide range of lands qualify as ecologically sensitive and may be eligible as ecological gifts.

Each donation, no matter how small, is significant. In fact, over the past 15 years, landowners across Canada have donated 896 ecological gifts, covering over 140,000 hectares of land, and valued at over $569 million. More than one-third of these ecological gifts protect areas designated as being of national or provincial significance, and many are home to species at risk.

Ecological gifts can be donated to a number of recipient types, including environmental charities approved by Environment Canada, federal, provincial and territorial governments, municipalities, and municipal or public bodies that perform a function of government.

The land must be certified as ecologically sensitive by Canada’s Minister of the Environment or a delegated certification authority in accordance with the provisions of the federal Income Tax Act, and must further meet the requirements of the Act in order to give rise to special tax benefits.

In addition to the peace of mind of knowing that the land will be managed by the recipient according to mutually agreed-upon conservation goals and objectives, donors also benefit by being eligible to receive enhanced income tax benefits for their certified donations.

What is the Ecological Gifts Program?

The Ecological Gifts Program is a national program that promotes ecological stewardship by providing tax incentives to protect Canada’s environmental heritage. The Program was established to combat habitat loss and degradation and to conserve important wildlife habitats and ecologically sensitive land across Canada. 

The Ecological Gifts Program works to develop and build partnerships so that communities, businesses, and individual Canadians can help in conserving and protecting nature, and, in doing so, leave a legacy for future generations.

The Program is administered by Environment Canada under the federal Income Tax Act. Since 1995, donations of ecologically-sensitive land, or easements, covenants and servitudes on such land have been eligible for special tax benefits. Changes to the Income Tax Act introduced in the 2000 and 2006 federal budgets have since enhanced the Program’s income tax benefits.

In addition to the charitable donations tax credit (for individuals) and the charitable donations deduction (for corporations), donations made on or after May 2, 2006 and certified under the Ecological Gifts Program are exempt to tax on any capital gains that have accrued in respect of the property. 

What are the benefits of participating in the Ecological Gifts Program?

As an individual or corporate landowner, one can benefit through participating by: creating a natural legacy for current and future generations, increasing the quality of life in your community by helping to conserve ecologically sensitive lands and adjacent waters where mammals, birds, fish and plants make their homes, receiving significant tax benefits, and illustrating your support for ecological fiscal reform while inspiring others to do the same.

Each donation helps form part of a network of protected areas that reaches across every habitat type and region in Canada. Through the formation of this network, Canada’s wildlife and natural heritage can remain healthy and prosperous.

To help Canadian landowners and conservation groups preserve Canada's natural heritage, the Government of Canada has eliminated the tax on capital gains for all certified ecological gift donations made on or after May 2, 2006 by reducing the inclusion rate to zero.