Molson Island, QC (Photo by Claude Duchaîne)

Molson Island, QC (Photo by Claude Duchaîne)

Pristine island added to protected lands in Estrie

November 23, 2021


Stanstead resident fulfills dream by donating land

Molson Island, the largest pristine island on Lake Memphremagog, is now protected, thanks to a donation from a local cottager. Andrew Howick recently donated the undeveloped 26-hectare island (equivalent to 24 soccer fields) to the Nature Conservancy of Canada (NCC). A businessman and family man, and passionate about the nature on his island, Howick has spent decades pursuing his goal to protect this jewel in Lake Memphremagog.

Howick's donation to NCC is supported by the Government of Canada's Ecological Gifts Program. This program provides tax benefits to individuals and corporations who donate ecologically sensitive land for conservation. The project also received funding from the Government of Quebec's Projet de partenariat pour les milieux naturels (PPMN).

A man with a mission

Since the 1980s, Howick and his family have been enjoying the natural beauty of Molson Island from their cottage on lake Memphremagog. When Howick and six of his neighbours learned in the early 1990s that the island was being eyed for development, they decided they had to do something about it. So, they rolled up their sleeves to contact the descendants of the Molson family and bought all the shares of the island from them. Over time, some neighbours sold their shares to Howick, who eventually became the sole owner.

"I want to extend the original intent of conserving this jewel of nature by donating it to NCC. It’s my small contribution to future generations and to fighting climate change,” says Howick. “My kids and spouse fully support my decision. They value conserving the island, and I’m so proud of them for that. I hope that more people will learn about the Ecological Gifts program and choose to give their land or take whatever action they can to help conserve our environment.”

Video: Virtual tour of Molson Island with Howick and an NCC biologist

The largest undisturbed green jewel on Lake Memphremagog

Molson Island joins Île Longue as an NCC-protected area in Lake Memphremagog, adding to the 150 square kilometres already protected in the Northern Green Mountains region by NCC and its partners. Entirely forested, the island boasts a variety of habitats, from rocky areas to riparian zones, and even a forested bog with a bed of moss. These natural spaces offer significant habitat potential for plants that are threatened or vulnerable in Quebec and Canada as well as rare orchid species. Among the plants observed here are Appalachian sedge, formerly on the list of species likely to be designated as threatened or vulnerable, and bulblet bladder fern, an indicator of limestone soil.


“The Northern Green Mountains are one of the last remaining areas in southern Quebec where large tracts of wilderness are still relatively undisturbed. We must maintain untouched habitats such as Molson Island as testaments to the biodiversity of undisturbed areas. This opportunity wouldn’t be possible without generous donors like Andrew Howick and the commitment of the surrounding community.” ― Cynthia Patry, biologist and Project Manager for the Northern Green Mountains at the Nature Conservancy of Canada in Quebec

“Environments like Molson Island are becoming increasingly rare in Quebec. I am pleased that Mr. Howick, a private landowner, sees the urgency of taking action to protect his island and is turning to NCC to help him in his efforts. We are proud to financially support and collaborate with NCC to help conserve natural environments on private land.” ― Benoit Charette, Minister of the Environment and the Fight against Climate Change, Minister Responsible for the Fight against Racism and Minister Responsible for the Laval Region.

“By working with partners such as the Nature Conservancy of Canada and landowners such as Andrew Howick, we are protecting nature in Quebec and across the country. Protecting and conserving more nature is an important part of our plan to address the twin crises of climate change and biodiversity loss. Through programs like the Ecological Gifts Program, we are making progress towards our goal of conserving a quarter of lands and a quarter of oceans in Canada by 2025, working towards 30 percent by 2030.” – The Honourable Steven Guilbeault, Minister of Environment and Climate Change


  • NCC thanks Andrew Howick for his donation of Molson Island and the Howick Foundation for its generous contribution of stewardship funds to maintain the land.
  • Thanks to the Government of Quebec, through the PPMN of the Minister of the Environment and the Fight against Climate Change, and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (through its North American Wetlands Conservation Act) for funding all costs associated with the acquisition of this property.
  • Thanks to the Government of Canada through the Natural Heritage Conservation Program, part of Canada’s Nature Fund.
  • Thanks to the contributions of other private donors to NCC stewardship funds, including donations made by members of the community around the lake, NCC can ensure the long-term protection of Molson Island and Île Longue in Lake Memphremagog.


The Nature Conservancy of Canada (NCC) is Canada’s leading not-for-profit, private land conservation organization, working to protect our most important natural areas and the species they sustain. Since 1962, NCC and its partners have helped to protect 14 million hectares, coast to coast to coast, including 48,000 hectares in Quebec. To learn more, visit natureconservancy.ca

The Projet de partenariat pour les milieux naturels (PPMN) is a four-year grant of more than $53 million from the Ministère de l'Environnement et de la Lutte contre les changements climatiques to NCC. It provides support for voluntary conservation initiatives to ensure the protection of natural areas of interest by establishing financial partnerships with conservation organizations in the province. The PPMN thus aims to develop and consolidate Québec's network of protected areas located on private land. It follows the Ensemble pour la nature project, which ended on March 31, 2020, and had similar goals.

The Howick Foundation was established to provide material aid to “the poorest of the poor” in the most disadvantaged countries of the world. This essential support is mainly provided through school lunches, which offer valuable nutrition to children and allow them to attend school, as well as agricultural assistance in the form of seeds and farm implements to subsistence farmers.

The North American Wetlands Conservation Act (NAWCA) is a program administered by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

Learn more

To learn more about the Government of Canada's Ecological Gifts Program, visit the Ecological Gifts Program website.

To learn how to contribute to NCC, visit natureconservancy.ca/donate

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Anne Guay
Communications and Marketing Officer
Nature Conservancy of Canada
1 877-876-5444 x6223

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