MONTREAL -- Andrew Howick has been busy over the last few decades buying property on Molson Island in Lac Memphrémagog in the hopes of protecting it from development.

Now, he's donating all 26 hectares -- about the same as 24 soccer fields -- to the Nature Conservancy of Canada (NCC).

"I was very anxious to make a gesture for conservation and for climate change and something that my children and grandchildren would be proud of," he said.

The Stanstead resident says he had the possibility of selling the land, but was worried about what the future owner might do.

"I had some sleepless nights worrying about it," confessed the businessman, adding he's passionate about nature.

Howick's donation is part of the Government of Canada's Ecological Gifts Program, which provides tax benefits to individuals and corporations who donate ecologically sensitive land for conservation.

"Thanks to his generosity, Molson Island will remain protected from development and its biodiversity will continue to thrive," said Jensen Edwards, spokesperson for the Nature Conservancy of Canada.

The forested island boasts a variety of habitats, from rocky areas to riparian zones and a forested bog with a bed of moss.

“The Northern Green Mountains are one of the last remaining areas in southern Quebec where large tracts of wilderness are still relatively undisturbed," said Cynthia Patry, biologist and project manager for the Northern Green Mountains at the Nature Conservancy of Canada in Quebec.

According to the NCC, these natural spaces are vital for the protection of threatened or vulnerable plants in Quebec and Canada.

“Environments like Molson Island are becoming increasingly rare in Quebec," notes Environment Minister Benoit Charette. "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."

Andrew Howick

Andrew Howick has donated Molson Island to the Nature Conservancy of Canada in the hopes of protecting it from development. (Nature Conservancy of Canada/Handout)

HOW IT STARTED

Howick says he and his family have admired Molson Island from their cottage since the 1980s.

"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," the Nature Conservancy of Canada notes. "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, Howick purchased the stocks from his neighbours and eventually became the sole owner.

"I hope that this gesture might serve as inspiration for people to give," Howick said. "If they have time to give, to volunteer, if they have a few dollars, to donate, or if they have a property, whatever is within their means."

WATCH Andrew Howick explains why he donated Molson Island to the NCC