Located in Frelighsburg, Eastern Townships, Mount Pinnacle is one of the last remaining unspoiled and undeveloped massifs close to Montreal. Frelighsburg, with its rushing river, surrounding hill-sides covered with apple orchards, Victorian houses, and of course the Pinnacle rising in the background, is an area full of attractions that is ranked as one of The Most Beautiful Villages of Quebec.
1985-1990: Two Visions of Development
In 1985, the Municipalité Régionale de Comté (Regional County Municipality) of Brome-Missisquoi undertook the design of a development plan for its territory. In Frelighsburg, public opinion quickly became polarized into two groups: those who favoured developing the Pinnacle mountain into a touristic and recreational centre, and those who favoured nature conservation. The development plan adopted in 1987 and subsequently updated in 1990, preferred the touristic and recreational vocation, and as a result the Commission de protection du territoire agricole declared a “white zoning” of 800 hectares (1977 acres) on the mountain to permit a promoter to develop a ski, golf and condominium resort.
Two associations formed with the goal of preserving the mountain: the Frelighsburg Taxpayers’ Association and the Association for the Conservation of Mount Pinnacle. At the same time, support for the developer’s project was also organized and the regional and national media reported on the conflict.
1991-1993: A Positive Action
Recognizing the impasse into which the debate would probably lead, a group of citizens proposed a concrete and positive action: the creation of a non-profit organization which could, on behalf of the community, acquire portions of the mountain with a goal of conservation. And so the Mount Pinnacle Land Trust was born. It was incorporated in February 1991, with the following objectives:
- To maintain in perpetuity the territories in the region of the Pinnacle and elsewhere, with a view to restoring and preserving the natural resources as well as retaining its wild character.
- The prudent management of the natural milieu with a view to preserving the rural character of the region, thus allowing light-impact public enjoyment, as well as assuring the continuity of its agricultural and forestry activities.
- The promotion of educational and scientific activities with a view to sensitizing the public to the value of prudent management of the natural milieu and encouraging the conservation of the many species of flora and fauna, the preservation of any natural sites and the respect of the environment.
A fund-raising campaign was launched under the Honorary Presidency of filmmaker Frédéric Back and, thanks to the donations of over 100 persons, collected tens of thousands of dollars. The Land Trust was then able to purchase, in 1993, a property of 59 hectares (146 acres) rising from an elevation of 300 meters at roadside to about 600 meters, in the heart of the “white zoned” land.
Later, with the help of grants from local organizations and generous donors, the Land Trust developed walking trails along which were installed interpretation panels describing typical local flora and fauna. As of January 2016, these trails reserved for specific educational and scientific activities and are not open to the general public.
1994-2004: Evolution of the Conflict
The ski and golf resort project never got off the ground. In February 1993, a modification of the municipal bylaws which would have favoured the development project was submitted to the population in a referendum and was rejected. In 1994, the municipal council adopted a new zoning plan which brought more control over development and a new bylaw which limited construction in the “white zoned” area. The developer, contesting the bylaw, initiated legal action against the municipality and the members of the council. The dispute was finally settled when the Supreme Court of Canada rejected the appeal by the plaintiff (Oct.2004). Meanwhile, the promoter had sold the land he owned and the major part of the summit was bought by Propriétés Terra Incognita Inc. for conservation purposes.
2003 - Today: Conservation Activities
The creation of the Land Trust and the acquisition of a property on the mountain helped to sensitize the local population to the necessity of protecting the natural sites for future generations. The Land Trust is legally recognized as a potential recipient of ecological gifts of land for conservation from landowners who in turn can take advantage of certain income tax benefits provided for in Environment Canada’s Ecological Gifts Program.
As an alternative to an outright donation, landowners can also grant a conservation easement (servitude) to a land trust, which may also have income tax benefits for the donor. With this alternative, the land trust or another conservation organization can preserve ecologically-sensitive land while, at the same time, landowners continue to enjoy the use of their property. Since 2003, the Mount Pinacle Land Trust has signed with a number of landowners conservation easement agreements on nine different properties in the periphery of the Pinnacle. The Land Trust currently has under its protection, in perpetuity, more than 700 acres of land, either in full ownership or in conservation easements.
Quebec’s Loi sur la conservation du patrimoine naturel allows landowners who want to preserve land having significant ecological value to obtain a certified status of «private nature reserve». And according to the Loi sur la fiscalité municipale a partial exemption of municipal and school taxes is granted to a landowner who has obtained the certification of a «nature reserve» for his property or part of it.
The Land Trust is able to act as a partner in this process. In 2011, most of the property (twenty hectares) of Vicki Tansey, already protected by a servitude, became officially the « Réserve naturelle Milarepa ».
The Mount Pinacle Land Trust is affiliated to a regional planning and coordinating conservation organization, the Appalachian Corridor, for a large section of the Appalachian Mountains which include Mt. Sutton, Mt. Pinnacle and stretches to Mt. Orford. Many other conservation organizations are affiliated, like the Ruiter Valley Land Trust and the Parc d’environnement naturel de Sutton (PENS). Appalachian Corridor is also associated with conservation organizations in Vermont’s Green Mountains region, from the Canadian border all the way to Mt. Mansfield and Camel’s Hump.
This ambitious project was founded by the Ruiter Valley Land Trust, which owns land property and manages easements in some parts of the Sutton Mountains. Appalachian Corridor is now an independent organization which has partnered with other conservation organizations of the region, such as the Alderbrooke Marsh Land Trust and the Parc d’environnement naturel de Sutton (PENS).