Organizing for Land Trusts - Community of Practice (OLT-COP)

Sustainability Network describes Engagement Organizing as an approach that strives to marry organizing, technology, and a culture of developing leadership in others. Shifting from expert-driven, direct mail groups toward a model that focuses on nimble, data-driven, learning organizations that place relationship building and mobilization of supporters at the heart of their work. The result is resilient, effective organizations that continue to advance their work in an ever-more demanding and challenged world. For the past seven years, the Gosling Foundation has worked to transform the nature sector through its Better Organization for nature program, based on the practice of Engagement Organization.

Organizational change is a common challenge. One approach that has been particularly successful in overcoming institutional inertia has been learning through a “Communities of Practice”.

The Gosling Foundation in collaboration with OLTA is inviting members to consider joining a community of practice that will commence in September 2021 should there be sufficient interest.

Why join a land trust community of practice? 

  • The biodiversity crisis is accelerating. Current practices are not meeting this challenge.  The field of engagement organizing provides very specific tools that can help your organization better meet its mission.
  • Communities of practice are learner centred and oriented to addressing the learning needs and realities of participants. Through professional inquiry, participants are assisted in identifying the issues and challenges of relevance to them and the tools that can be used to address them.
  • By learning with others with similar interests, participants gain from the collective knowledge and experience of the group.
  • Learning together fosters development of professional relationships in the land trust network.
  • Communities of practice are supported by experienced facilitators and sector leaders.
  • Difficult to secure resources to implement capacity changes may be available.
  • Growing your professional competence and seeing your organization reach new levels of effectiveness develops a positive and hopeful outlook.

This proposed community of practice is a venue that allows participating land trusts to share experiences and lessons learned. It will provide a space for training, resources sharing, and peer-to-peer learning on best practices in engagement organizing.

Participant Expectations and Requirements: 

  1. Ongoing participation of at least two individuals in a leadership position within your organization. Ideally one of these would include your board chair and/or your executive director if you have one. Additional volunteers and staff are invited to participate, and this is encouraged. Note that participation at in-person events may be limited due to capacity and resource limitations.
  2. Attend in person and online events as arranged through mutually agreeable scheduling. Monthly meetings are anticipated.
  3. Track your organization’s progress by referencing relevant metrics such a number of supporters, volunteer hours, and other measures.
  4. There is no fee to participate in this learning project however implementation of engagement organizing practices has resource implications for each organization.
  5. Take action in between sessions to test new ideas, exploring new ways of engaging and mobilizing your supporter base.
  6. Pursue the enhancement of the capacity of your organization by sharing your organization’s issues, challenges and successes with the learning community. Select and work to implement the aspects of capacity enhancement that best suit your organization’s needs.
  7. The time commitment will vary and be dependent upon what elements of organizing you are working to implement. However, it is expected that this initiative will last at least two years.


  1. Application will be due August 25
  2. Interviews will take place September 6-10
  3. The OLT-COP will commence in the week of September 20th
  4. There will be a monthly 2h long virtual meeting and annual in-person get together (COVID 19 restrictions permitting)
  5. You will be expected to deliver on your own engagement organizing goals between those meetings

Topics to be explored for possible implementation include: 

  1. Developing and embracing a clear Theory of Change
  2. Increasing the people power of your organization by recruiting and mobilizing supporters
  3. Evolving job descriptions to support volunteer mobilization
  4. Engagement pyramids and paths
  5. Distributed Leadership – snowflake model of leadership distribution
  6. Enhancing scale of operations through digital technology
  7. Planning for organizational change
  8. Including advocacy in your organization’s activities to better advance land conservation in Ontario

Expected Outcomes: 

  1. Develop stronger working relationships with others in the land trust/conservation community
  2. Become a more robust organization better prepared to meet your mission to advance private land conservation in Ontario
  3. Fully understand the concept of engagement organizing, create plans, and implement some tools of engagement organizing within your organization.

Interested in participating in OLT-COP? Please fill out the application form and send a copy or link to your organization’s last annual report or financial statement to by 9 AM August 25, 2021.

Southern Ontario Nature Coalition (SONC)

The Southern Ontario Nature Coalition (SONC) is a group of experienced provincial, regional, and community-based conservation organizations, land-based policy experts, and Indigenous engagement specialists. With support from the Government of Canada, SONC is developing a strategy that supports a robust near-urban nature network for the Greater Golden Horseshoe. What we learn here and in similar geographies will be instrumental in informing work being done across the country, including the predominantly urban landscapes of southern Canada. Ultimately, our work today is critical to the resilience and prosperity of Canadian communities tomorrow.

The Coalition is committed to engaging Indigenous communities in accordance with community protocols and the development of ethical space for all to contribute meaningfully.

Project Significance

The near-urban nature Network will:

  1. Address threats to biodiversity in southern Ontario.
  2. Identify solutions to protect near-urban nature at an increased rate.
  3. Help realize nature’s full public contributions to community healthy, prosperity, and climate resilience.
  4. Respect Indigenous communities as land-rights holders, and amplify Indigenous Knowledge systems and leadership.
  5. Enable greater action by municipal governments and private landowners, including agricultural land owners.
  6. Promote voluntary, innovative community action.
  7. Initiate a pan-Canadian conversation about protecting near-urban biodiversity.

Read the Final and Technical project reports that provides key recommendations for federal and provincial governments and community-oriented calls-to-action, which will help all levels of government to protect near-urban nature across the country:









Read the full summary report to explore the opportunities and discover the path forward:

Interested in learning more about the SONC Near-urban Nature Network? Check out the recording for a digital information session we held about the project on July 27th, 2021:

SONC Partner Organizations:

This project was made possible with the financial support from Environment and Climate Change Canada.

Engaging New Canadians With Nature

OLTA’s environmental outreach program, Engaging New Canadians With Nature, encourages newcomers to Canada to connect with nature through conversations around what nature means to them, learn about natural spaces and cultivate an interest in nature in Canada. This outreach work is in collaboration with CultureLink, a settlement and community organization with more than 30 years experience in developing and delivering services to meet the needs of diverse communities.

The project’s purpose is to build connections between nature groups and new Canadians to empower new Canadian to connect and care for their new natural environment and to foster opportunities for new Canadians to connect with the emotional, mental and physical benefits of nature.

In 2020 OLTA launched the first year of program, successfully facilitating many opportunities to increase engagement between nature groups and newcomers. Throughout the first year we hosted 6 nature-based events, in collaboration with 3 nature organizations, including Nature Conservancy of Canada, The Riverwood Conservancy, and Escarpment Biosphere Conservancy.

In 2021, another 6 nature-based events were conducted in collaboration with 5 nature-based organizations and land trusts, specifically: Ontario Streams, High Park Nature Centre, Local Enhancement & Appreciation of Forests (LEAF), Royal Astronomical Society of Canada and Muskoka Conservancy. Within these two years of the program, OLTA engaged over 200 newcomers!

Throughout the Engaging New Canadians with Nature Program, we shared resources and materials on our website to encourage the development of similar programs across the various communities our land trust members operate in Ontario. These resources can be accessed here. Recently, we created an Experiential Learning Guide after the second year of the program to share broader learnings and opportunities for land trusts to create similar programs.


This project was made possible with the support from TD Friends of the Environment Fund (TD FEF).  Founded by TD Bank Group in 1990, TD FEF is a national charity that funds environmental projects across Canada.

If you’re interested in learning more about the project or collaborating on an event, please contact

Natural Heritage Conservation Program

The Government of Canada is investing $100 million over four years in the Natural Heritage Conservation Program (NHCP), from April 1, 2019, to March 31, 2023, as part of Budget 2018’s Nature Legacy initiative. The NHCP is a public-private partnership designed to advance privately protected areas in some of the country’s most cherished landscapes.

The NHCP will contribute to the achievement of the terrestrial and inland water elements of Target 1 for Canada’s 2020 Biodiversity Goals and Targets. It will also contribute to the protection of habitat for the recovery of Species at Risk Act (SARA) listed species at risk and the prevention of other species from becoming listed under SARA.

The Nature Conservancy of Canada, Ducks Unlimited Canada, Wildlife Habitat Canada and a variety of regional and local land trusts represented by the Canadian Land Trust Working Group are working together under the Natural Heritage Conservation Program to support these goals, with a commitment to protect an additional 200,000 hectares (494,210 acres) of habitat for species at risk.

Wildlife Habitat Canada is providing grant administration services for the Land Trusts Conservation Fund, which is a component of the Natural Heritage Conservation Program. The Land Trusts Conservation Fund (LTCF) will provide approximately $4.5 million annually over four years to support Canadian land trusts in securing private lands and private interests in lands.

To be eligible to apply for the LTCF, which includes a large or small grant program, applicants must meet the following requirements:

  • Applicants must be a Canadian Land Trust
  • Applicants must be a registered Canadian Charity
  • Applicants must have adopted and be in compliance with, or working towards substantial compliance with, the Canadian Land Trusts Standards and Practices (2019)
  • Applicants must demonstrate a minimum of 2:1 in match funding raised from other non-federal sources.

For more general information on the program please visit the Government of Canada’s website here or for more information on both the Small & Large grant programs, please visit Wildlife Habitat Canada’s website here.

Climate Action Program

OLTA’s Climate Action Program will encourage community learning and action around climate change and climate adaptation of conservation and restoration efforts. This program will benefit local communities in rural areas, land trusts and nature.

We are developing and testing a Climate Vulnerability Assessment Tool. This tool will determine the vulnerability of conservation properties to climate change. We will run a pilot project in 2019-20 with land trusts in the Waterloo-Wellington-Dufferin area. During this pilot, we will test the tool and determine vulnerability of conservation properties to climate change. Based on vulnerability, we will identify and undertake actions to increase the resilience of those properties.

We are also working to develop communications resources to help land trusts share knowledge about the role of land conservation as a climate change adaptation strategy. We will work to engage members of the public in this program through hosting public restoration/stewardship events and interpretive walks.

Tools and training activities will be shared to improve climate change communication and action in other parts of Ontario through our network of land trusts. To view resources created from this project click here.

This project was made possible with the support of the Ontario Trillium Foundation’s Seed Fund. The Ontario Trillium Foundation (OTF) is an agency of the Government of Ontario, and one of Canada’s leading granting foundations. OTF awarded more than $120 million to some 700 projects last year to build healthy and vibrant communities in Ontario.

For more information about this program, contact our Conservation Science Manager, Morgan Roblin (

Conservation Easement Agreement Defense Program

This project aims to strengthen land conservation, through outreach, collaborative partnerships, and a targeted training program to improve the enforceability of CEAs and reduce their vulnerability.

Key Project Outcomes

  • Action Area 1: Establish a consistent approach to conservation easement registration in Ontario’s Land Registry System
  • Action Area 2: Develop and promote best practices and training in the drafting of easement agreements, easement revitalization and easement defense strategies
  • Action Area 3: Provide training to real property specialists (real estate agents, appraisers, planners, lawyers) on the role of conservation easements in habitat protection.

OLTA CEA Sample and Guide

OLTA developed our Guide to Conservation Easement Agreements in 2008.

Ten years later, we have a much better understanding of the importance of a well-drafted CEA. We are updating our Guide in order to help land trusts improve the quality and defensibility of their CEAs. In addition to being developed and reviewed by OLTA’s CEA Working Group, the document was also reviewed by real estate lawyers and litigators. The revised Guide and Sample is now available!

We are also developing best practices training around the new CEA Guide and Sample to help land trusts understand the changes that were made to the document and why those changes were made. Training opportunities are provided through workshops, seminars, and webinars.

CEA Revitalization Pilot

The majority of CEAs held by land trusts are registered on title in perpetuity. Therefore, the land trust is obliged to enforce the CEA and protect the conservation values on the property in perpetuity. As such, well-drafted CEAs with accurate and complete supporting documentation is essential. As the land trust community in Ontario and across Canada continues to advance, the standard for CEA drafting is set higher. Many land trusts have CEAs that were established 10-20 years ago. These CEAs do not meet the current standards of the land trust community and may leave an opportunity for a landowner to degrade conservation values that the CEA set out to protect.

In 2019, OLTA launched a CEA Revitalization Pilot to help a small number of land trusts that hold older CEAs move through the revitalization process. The CEA Revitalization Pilot aimed to improve our understanding of how land trusts can review, identify, manage and resolve issues with old or outdated CEAs. We hope that this project will help land trusts to strengthen CEA enforcement and defensibility, and encourage land trusts to take a proactive approach to managing and strengthening their CEAS.

Resources and Materials for Property Specialists

OLTA is working to develop published materials and resources to help specialists locate essential information concerning CEAs in Ontario. These resources will be made available through our website allowing these specialists to access them through a simple web search.

This program is supported by the McLean Foundation and the ECHO Foundation.

Fee for Service for Land Trusts

OLTA’s Fee for Service Program offers low-cost services to our members to assist them in adhering with the Canadian Land Trust Standards and Practices. We can provide low-cost expertise to assist with conservation land evaluation, planning, stewardship, monitoring and outreach focused activities.

*New Service* – Geographic Information System (GIS) Support: OLTA is now offering GIS Support to our members through the Fee for Service Program.

For more information on OLTA Fee for Service.

Cross-border Conservation Training Program
Recognizing that American-owned lands are key conservation properties in many land trust catchment areas in Ontario, the Ontario Trillium Foundation has provided funding over three years to OLTA and American Friends of Canadian Land Trusts  (AF) to launch the Cross-border Conservation Training Program (CCTP) in 2016. The McLean Foundation has also provided support for program implementation.
Ontario Trillium logo
Our goal is to increase the collective capacity of Ontario conservation organizations to be successful at “cross-border conservation” – to secure high-priority conservation properties owned wholly or partly by U.S. taxpayers – and to bring more funding to support such work. Now in our final year of the program, we are offering some final training opportunities and one-on-one mentoring. In addition, tax tools and other resources being created, including recorded webinars, will soon be available on our publication page. They explain the U.S. and Canadian income tax benefits that make gifts of land financially feasible for U.S. owners. 
Old Man Creek water fall
The Old Man Creek Preserve was saved from subdivision and development by an American who acquired the land and donated it to American Friends of Canadian Land Trusts in a transaction facilitated by the Magnetawan Watershed Land Trust.
Photo credit: Steven H. O. Jones 
For more information please contact Kristen Callow, OLTA Program Officer  or  Sandra Tassel, American Friends Program Coordinator.



Conserving Species at Risk on Land Trust Property

Do you know what Species at Risk you have on your land trust properties?

Would you like to learn how to protect them?

Thanks to the support of the MNRF Species at Risk Stewardship Fund we are able to offer support to land trusts to help you conserve Species at Risk on your properties!

This project enables OLTA to provide guidance and expertise to enhance the capacity of local land trusts to undertake strategic conservation planning and management on their properties to benefit Species at Risk. This will be accomplished through delivery of technical training through open workshops, plus one-on-one support for land trusts to develop targeted Species at Risk action plans to inform their conservation work.

For more information on the program, please contact the Species at Risk Technician, Morgan Roblin.

Assistance for this project is provided by the government of Ontario. Government of Ontario logo

Call for Cross-border Conservation Training Program (CCTP) Assistance Fund NOW CLOSED

The aim of the Cross-border Conservation Training Program (CCTP) is to help Ontario land trusts increase their capacity to secure land and conservation easements from US taxpayers who own ecologically significant properties in the province. There are parts of Ontario with high natural heritage values where priority conservation lands are in US ownership. Cross-border conservation can produce more strategic land protection outcomes that are partially underwritten with tax incentives from the US government.

CCTP includes a suite of land trust services, including a fund to assist organizations working in those areas. CCTP is a collaborative initiative of the Ontario Land Trust Alliance Inc. (OLTA) and American Friends of Canadian Land Trusts.

OLTA invites land trusts serving areas where key conservation properties are owned by US taxpayers to apply for assistance from CCTP to support development of skills, tools and relationships to advance potential cross-border conservation transactions. Applications for the following activities will be considered in this round of funding:

– Costs associated with cross-border land securement projects;
– Consultation with tax professionals on cross-border tax implications of a potential transaction; and
– Costs associated with creating/enhancing a land securement strategy that will advance cross-border conservation and of creating/implementing a targeted outreach campaign.

Applicants who are working toward completing a land securement project before the end of 2018 will be highly ranked. A total of $40,085.34 is available in this second CCTP funding cycle. There may be a third call for applications later in 2018. Applications for this round are due by 9:00 am Thursday, February 15, 2018. Please contact Kristen Callow at 705-329-8549, or for assistance.

For information on cross-border conservation in general or assistance with potential transactions, please contact Sandra Tassel at American Friends at 301-233-1214 or

BEFORE completing the application, please thoroughly review the following documents:
CCTP Assistance Fund 2018 Application Form
CCTP Assistance Fund 2018 Guidelines for Applicants
CCTP Assistance Fund Recipient Agreement Template 2018

Submission Deadline: CLOSED


Naturally Accessible – Discovering Ontario’s Land Trusts

Naturally Accessible – Discovering Ontario’s Land Trusts is an initiative of the Ontario Land Trust Alliance (OLTA) in partnership with the Accessibility Directorate of Ontario. It aims to educate and train Ontario’s land trusts and other conservation partners on their obligations under the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act, 2005 (AODA) and to work with them to promote and grow accessible recreational, outdoors and educational opportunities offered to the public through their conservation properties and programs.

Naturally Accessible banner

Photo credits: and Jenna Quinn

Currently 1 in 7 people in Ontario has some type of disability. That’s 1.85 million Ontarians! By 2036, as our population ages, it is expected that 1 in 5 Ontarians will have a disability. That is a lot of potential members, donors, volunteers and champions. Why not start now to think about how to be inclusive as possible as you look to engage your public in the work that you do!

Learning from our Accessibility Roadmaps

Thanks to support from the Accessibility Directorate of Ontario, OLTA was able to work with four land conservation organizations to develop ‘accessibility road maps’ to develop and prioritize actions they can take to make their operations and facilities more accessible to people with disabilities.

Accessibility Roadmap Reports 2014-2015

We refined these reports to focus on specific topic areas that were common challenges for our participating organizations.

We have also produced the Naturally Accessible Resource Guide, which brings together a collection of materials that will help your organization improve the accessibility of communications, programs, meetings and facilities for persons with disabilities. We would appreciate your feedback and input to keep this resource up to date, so please contact us if you have ideas or questions!

Assessing Your Organization (AYO) Program

Ontario Land Trust Alliance provides instructional tools to help land trusts understand and implement the Canadian Land Trust Standards and Practices.

Ontario Trillium logo

Thanks to the Ontario Trillium Foundation for their support of $265,100 over 36 months to build the organizational capacity of Ontario’s Land Trusts by delivering OLTA’s Assessing Your Organization (AYO), a program that assists Ontario land trusts in achieving the Canadian Land Trust Standards and Practices.

In 2007, OLTA launched its Organizational Assessment Program. This program is intended to help strengthen land trusts through a systematic review and discussion of their governance and operating practices in light of the Canadian Land Trust Standards and Practices. Through the guidance of OLTA facilitators, the assessment process helps land trust boards meet legal requirements and regulations, recruit and train excellent board members, set priorities for organizational development, as well as secure land efficiently and effectively for conservation and protection.

The main tool used for this program is the Assessing Your Organization: Using Canadian Land Trust Standards and Practices workbook. Assessing Your Organization is designed to complement the 2005 Canadian Land Trust Standards and Practices and is created for land trusts and other entities that wish to undertake an analysis of their organization’s progress toward implementing the Canadian Land Trust Standards and Practices.

Testimonials from participants of OLTA’s Organizational Assessment Program:

“This is a good prelude to a 5-year strategic planning process. I think we were mostly aware of pending issues with plans for addressing them –This lights a fire under us, highlights needs so we’re clearer as a group.” – The Couchiching Conservancy

“Good ‘wake-up’ call for what we need to get going on.”
– Thousand Islands Watershed Land Trust

Credit for Product Projects - Fleming College’s Ecosystem Management Technology Program

Students enrolled in Fleming College’s Ecosystem Management Technology program have partnered with OLTA for multiple academic semesters to develop projects based on OLTA’s current needs and student’s interests and goals, in partial fulfilment of Fleming student’s program requirementsThe Ecosystem Management Technology program aims to educate students on the principles and protocols of ecosystem management and sustainable development, as well as to develop their professional and interpersonal skills to create well-rounded students. The Credit for Product course is a placement program designed to provide students with the opportunity to partner with an organization and apply their combined skills to a real-world project. The students are given a list of deliverables as assigned by the organization and must work together under the guidance of their mentors and technical support from faculty to produce a complete final project. The main learning outcomes associated with this course include refining a student’s basic project management skills such as planning, communicating and time-management. It requires the application of leadership skills, teamwork, and collaboration.

In the last two years, students enrolled in the Credit for Product course partnered with OLTA to conducted a gap analysis on OLTA’s upcoming Learning Centre and developed a report of Ontario land trust history and securement over time. See details below:

Learning Centre Gap Analysis Credit for Product Project (2021-2022)

Students partnered with the Ontario Land Trust Alliance (OLTA) this academic semester to deliver a Learning Centre Gap Analysis Report. Student team Sean Avey, Corey Bradley, and Keara Kidd partnered with OLTA to locate and organize resources, identify gaps in content, re-imagine OLTA’s digital presence, and suggest key structural and organizational elements to be incorporated in a new Learning Centre. These were the initial stages to complete in preparation for the development of OLTA’s learning centre, a long-term goal that will allow OLTA to better serve their member organizations. OLTA’s new Educational Services Coordinator, Lauren Draaistra, is now able to use this Gap Analysis Report to continue developing OLTA’s Learning Centre. We appreciate all the hard work!

Ontario Land Trust and Securement History Credit for Product Project (2020-2021)

The purpose of the Ontario Land Trust and Securement History Credit for Product project was to compile the history and formation of OLTA into one document. Ian Attridge and Barb Heidenreich, OLTA Governors, mentored four students that undertook the project. Through both primary and secondary sources including interviews and publications provided, key moments in the formation of OLTA were highlighted and preserved for the benefit of future communities and conservation stewards. The student team aimed to listen to perspectives of as many people as possible, to gain a comprehensive view of the land trust movement in Ontario over the years.