|We're excited you're considering permanently protecting the natural values of your land. Here are some answers to a few common questions that we hope will help you determine if a conservation covenant is right for you. If we don't answer all of your questions here, please contact our covenant specialist, Wayne Bourque. He will be happy to provide you with more information.
Is my land eligible for an Islands Trust Conservancy covenant?
The decision to accept a landowner's proposal to covenant part or all of a property is ultimately up to the discretion of the Islands Trust Conservancy board, the decision-making body of the Islands Trust Conservancy. However, these are some of the characteristics of covenant areas the board typically accepts:
- Sensitive ecosystems (old or mature forests, woodlands, herbaceous, cliff, freshwater, wetland, riparian). You can learn if a sensitive ecosystem has been mapped on your property by exploring the interactive MapIT Ecosystems Application, or viewing a pdf map of your island.
- At-risk species or ecosystems. To learn if a species or ecosystem on your property is considered at-risk, visit the BC Species and Ecosystems Explorer
- Natural lands with lower disturbance levels (less recent logging, lower human activity, and fewer invasive species)
- Lands next to or near existing protected areas, including a nature reserve, ecological reserve, a national, provincial, regional, or community park, or a private property with a conservation covenant
- Large properties exhibiting one or more of the features noted above. Typically, larger covenant areas provide higher conservation benefits for the community and justify the costs associated with registering a covenant. However, the board does consider smaller covenant areas with very high ecosystem values.
If you're unsure if your land is eligible for a conservation covenant, please contact our staff to discuss the specifics of your land.
Who do I talk with to make sure I am making the right decision?
|A conservation covenant permanently protects the natural features of your land. The decision to covenant part or all of your land can impact your finances and plans for the future. Before we start any covenant process, we always recommend that landowner discuss their plans with a lawyer and/or financial advisor, their mortgage holder (if the property is mortgaged), and their family (especially if you plan to leave your land to family in your will). The following information may help you in those conversations:
- Annotated Conservation Covenant [PDF] - A conservation covenant can be individually tailored to you and your land. However, this is the standard covenant template we typically start with.
- Ecological Gifts Program - A federal program that you can apply to when donating a conservation covenant to receive tax benefits for your donation.
How do I apply to the Islands Trust Conservancy board for a conservation covenant?
- Contact Islands Trust Conservancy staff to discuss your covenant plans.
- Download and complete a conservation proposal form. As well as collecting general information about you and your property, this form provides the Islands Trust Conservancy board with information about the natural features of the property, which they will consider when making a decision about your proposal. If you're planning on entering the NAPTEP program, please download a NAPTEP application instead. If your decision to covenant your land is related to a development application being considered by your local government (including a subdivision), please download this conservation proposal form associated with a development application instead.
- Provide a sketch of your proposed covenant area and its features. A covenanted area typically does not include buildings, septic fields, gardens, or other heavily impacted land. If you propose covenanting a portion of your property, consider where the boundaries of the covenant area will lie, and how big the covenant area will be.
- Consider whether you would like a second organization, such as an island-based conservancy, to co-hold the covenant with the Islands Trust Conservancy. See Our Partners for a listing of land trusts in your area.
- Submit your proposal form (by email or mail) to the Islands Trust Conservancy, with any supporting documents such as photos, maps or biological inventories that you believe will aid our understanding of your land and your wishes for its protection.
- Once we receive your proposal, a staff member will follow up with you to arrange a time when they can visit the property with you and discuss your plans further.
- Once a site visit is complete, your proposal to register a covenant with the Islands Trust Conservancy will be submitted by staff to the board for consideration.
What steps will I need to take to register a covenant on my land?
If the Islands Trust Conservancy board approves your proposal to covenant your land, the next step is to prepare the covenant.
- An Islands Trust Conservancy staff member will draft the proposed covenant based on the information you provided in your application and during your site visit. Once you receive this draft, you will need to review it, preferably with your lawyer, to determine if you agree with the terms or wish to see edits to the agreement. Note that covenants negotiated through the NAPTEP program are generally less flexible than covenants negotiated outside of the NAPTEP program because they result in property tax exemptions.
- Send the draft covenant back to the Islands Trust Conservancy with comments or proposed edits. Covenant documents typically undergo several rounds of revisions before a final document is agreed upon. This revision process is important; a covenant is meant to last forever, therefore you will want to make sure the final document will be the tool you need to realize your long term goals for the land.
- If you are covenanting a portion of your property, you will need to hire a registered British Columbia Land Surveyor to create a survey of the covenant area that will be registered at the Land Titles Office with the covenant.
- Hire an environmental professional approved by the Islands Trust Conservancy to conduct a Baseline Report. The baseline report documents the state of the land at the time the covenant was registered. After the covenant is registered, your land will be monitored annually, comparing its state with that in the baseline report. The person conducting your baseline report will need to follow our Baseline Report Standard [PDF].
- Once the terms of the covenant, the baseline report, and survey are complete and agreed upon by you, the Islands Trust Conservancy board, and any potential co-covenant holders, all parties must sign the covenant, with each signature witnessed by a Commissioner for Taking Affidavits in British Columbia. Our staff can help you find a Commissioner on your island.
- The covenant must be registered at with the Land Titles Office to be placed on your property's title. The Islands Trust Conservancy may be able to help you with this process.
How much will this process cost?
The following costs will vary depending on the size of the area to be protected and the complexity of the covenant:
- A survey of the land (if the covenant is over only a portion of the land). Landowners can keep this cost low by choosing a simple design for their covenant area, such as using existing property lines or using long straight lines for the covenant area ($1,000 to $7,000+)
- A baseline report that describes the ecological features of the land ($1,000 to $3,000+)
- Registration of the covenant ($344)
- Your own legal advice on the terms of the covenant, and tax/financial advice ($500 to $1,200+)
- Financial and tax advice because covenants are deemed dispositions of land and their donation can result in both Capital Gains tax unless properly recorded on your tax return and income tax benefits through the Ecological Gifts Program
- An appraisal (typically only required if you're entering the Ecological Gifts Program) ($2,000 to $3,500+)
Can I apply for financial assistance or receive tax benefits to help offset these costs?
There may be income and property tax benefits associated with placing a covenant on your land, that could help offset your costs, depending on your particular circumstances.
- The Ecological Gifts Program provides donors of eligible conservation covenants with a tax credit for your donation that can be applied to your income.
- The NAPTEP program provides eligible island landowners who protect their land with a NAPTEP covenant with a 65% exemption in annual property taxes on the protected portion of their land.
- If you register a covenant outside of the NAPTEP program, BC Assessment is required to consider your covenant when assessing property values. If a covenant's restrictions reduce your land's market value, this may lower your property taxes.
A tax advisor can help you discover how these tax benefits might apply to your situation.
In some circumstances, the Islands Trust Conservancy can help you with the costs of protecting your land if financial hardship makes it impossible for you to cover these costs. Our funds available for this support are limited and subject to change, depending on our annual budget and the number of requests for help we receive. Please discuss your situation with staff early in the process to determine what is available and what arrangements can be made.
What happens once the covenant is registered on my land?
|A conservation covenant is intended to protect its ecosystem values forever. To do that, we monitor each of the properties we covenant every year.
Our property monitor will contact you well in advance to schedule your yearly monitoring visit. If you wish to accompany the monitor on their walkabout of the covenanted area, they will make every effort to plan their visit at a time that suits you. If your covenant is co-held by the
|Islands Trust Conservancy and another conservancy, a representative of that conservancy may also accompany our monitor.
During their visit, our property monitor will often walk the covenanted area's boundary looking for evidence of encroachment on the area or impacts on the ecosystem values from surrounding land uses. He or she will look for any changes to the land and take pictures to document the state of the covenant area. The monitor will access the covenant area through the agreed upon right-of-way and will not venture into other areas.
Although our property monitor is not an Islands Trust Conservancy staff member, we sign multi-year contracts with our property monitors to ensure consistency in our monitoring. This means you'll see a familiar face each year, and that person will be knowledgeable of any special circumstances surrounding your protected area.