Many people believe our conservation areas are paid for by their tax dollars, but that is not the case. Membership fees pay for trail maintenance, emergency services, property taxes, insurance and all those little things we need to keep our conservation areas open. Just as important, membership dollars directly contribute to important conservation work throughout our watershed and preserve heritage sites on HCA lands.
What is a conservation authority? Conservation authorities do more than operate conservation areas. Conservation Authorities are local, community-based public sector organizations. They are provincially legislated by the Conservation Authorities Act which was originally passed in 1946 in response to extensive flooding, erosion, deforestation and soil loss resulting from poor land, water and forestry management practices in earlier years.
Key areas of Conservation Authority activity include:
Environmental Protection - The Conservation Authorities of Ontario protect local ecosystems and contribute to the quality of life in communities throughout the province.
Water Resource Managers - The Conservation Authorities are Ontario's community-based environmental experts who use integrated, ecologically sound environmental practices to manage Ontario's water resources on a watershed basis, maintain secure supplies of clean water, protect communities from flooding and contribute to municipal planning processes (that protect water).
Lifelong Learning - The Conservation Authorities of Ontario create educational experiences in a natural environment that enrich the lives of peoples of all ages, by instilling an appreciation and enjoyment of our diverse natural heritage.
For almost 50 years, financing conservation authority work was a provincial-municipal partnership. However, conservation authorities have seen dramatic reductions in provincial funding, but conservation authorities must still carry out their mandated work.
In order to meet their most pressing responsibilities, conservation authorities have restructured, streamlined, refocused priorities and stretched available resources. Some have reduced services; most have increased other sources of revenue to focus on the highest priorities. Generally, self-generated revenue and municipal levies cover the bulk of the cost of the work.
The Hamilton Conservation Authority received $4,250,000 as a municipal levy, which amounts to 35% of our total budget. That is a cost of $8.17 per person in the City of Hamilton for the year. Five years ago, the levy was $7.61 per person, an increase of 7.3% growth over five years (less than 1.5% per year).That funding goes towards the program outlined above that we are mandated to provide. The remainder of the budget is funded through user fees, membership fees, grants and donations. Operations of conservation areas is entirely self-funded. Our financial statements, which are audited every year, are available to the public, once approved by our Board of Directors.