Best Practices for Conservation Covenants

Conservation covenants offer government and conservation agencies an effective alternative to purchasing land to protect important features and community values.  A conservation covenant is a voluntary, legal agreement between an agency and a landowner used to protect values on private land without requiring the landowner to part with the land.  The covenant is registered against the title to the property in the British Columbia Land Title Office under section 219 of the Land Title Act.

Local governments also use restrictive covenants as a planning tool to impose development restrictions on landowners.  Conservation covenants (a type of Section 219 covenant) are typically more flexible than restrictive covenants, and can also create positive obligations - things the landowner must do - not only things the landowner cannot do.  Section 219 covenants are more appropriate than restrictive covenants when the sole purpose of the covenant is for conservation purposes.

Who can hold conservation covenants?

A section 219 covenant can be registered in favour of:

  • The Crown or a Crown corporation or agency (such as the Islands Trust Conservancy board)
  • A municipality, regional district, or local trust committee
  • Any person designated by the minister

What can be protected with a conservation covenant?

Conservation covenants protect land or a specified amenity in relation to the land.  "Amenity" includes natural, historical, heritage, cultural, scientific, architectural, environmental, wildlife or plant life values.  Typically, the Islands Trust Conservancy board uses conservation covenants to protect broad ecosystems rather than an individual feature, such as a small group of trees.

The following kinds of provisions are typically included in a covenant to protect land and amenities:

  • Provisions about the use of land or a building on the land
  • Restrictions on new buildings
  • Restrictions against subdividing the land
  • Restrictions against removing trees or vegetation, grazing and soil disturbance
  • Provisions that the land or amenity be maintained, enhanced or restored in accordance with the covenant

A conservation covenant can also provide the landowner with certain rights, such as firewood collection or maintenance of a viewscape.

Why is it important for you to use best practices when holding conservation covenants?

Best practices incorporate the practical experience of agencies working with conservation covenants. Best practices are intended to help your agency:

  • ensure your conservation covenants are enforceable in perpetuity
  • avoid extraordinary financial costs associated with challenges to your covenants
  • provide the most effective and efficient protection for biodiversity values in your community

Covenant Best Practices Basics

These are the basics to an effective conservation covenant program.  For more, refer to some of the best practices guides we've gathered.

Rent Charge

A rent charge is a mechanism for penalizing a breach to a conservation covenant.  A rent charge is a financial penalty a covenant holder can levy against a landowner who breaches a covenant.  It provides an incentive to a landowner to comply with the terms of a covenant.  A rent charge is drafted into the terms of the covenant.

Baseline Report

A baseline report is attached to a conservation covenant as a schedule and provides information on the original state of the habitat protected.  Without a baseline report, you as a covenant holder will be challenged to prove that the land or an amenity has been altered from its original state in the event of a breach.  For more information, view the Islands Trust Conservancy's Baseline Report Guidelines.

Statutory Right of Way

To monitor covenanted lands, you'll need to access them.  In the event of a breach, you might need access without the permission of the landowner.  This type of access is typically granted through a Statutory Right of Way.  A Statutory Right of Way is written into a conservation covenant and appears as a separate charge on the title of the land.

Monitoring and Enforcement

As the agency holding a covenant, you have a responsibility to uphold the terms of the covenant and respond when those terms have been breached.  A monitoring program with regular property inspections is an essential component of any covenant program.  Covenant holders should also maintain relationships with landowners, including new owners purchasing covenanted properties, to be able to address violations quickly and with minimal expenses.

Best Resources for Best Covenant Practices

Greening your title

WCEL's Greening Your Title: A Guide to Best Practices for Conservation Covenants

West Coast Environmental Law provides a comprehensive guide for covenant holders with practical advice on covenant negotiating and drafting, dispute resolution, how to protect against liability, and much more.
Learn more

LTABC's Standards and Practices: Resources and Assessment

The Land Trust Alliance of British Columbia provides example covenant and conservation agreement policies and templates, as well as other useful information regarding project selection, recordkeeping, conservation agreement stewardship.  Once you navigate to the LTABC's site, use the navigation panel on the left hand of the screen to review best practices.
Learn more

ITC's Annotated Covenant

The Islands Trust Conservancy's Annotated Conservation Covenant provides an overview of the typical provisions the Islands Trust Conservancy typically includes in the conservation covenants it holds, including covenants in the NAPTEP program.
Read more (pdf)

Guidelines for Conservation Covenants in the Agricultural Land Reserve

The Agricultural Land Commission has produced a set of guidelines for proponents of conservation covenants for lands within British Columbia's Agricultural Land Reserve.
Read more (pdf)



Page last updated: 20/01/20
Copyright © The Island Trust Conservancy.     The Islands Trust Conservancy is a qualified donee under the Income Tax Act. Donations are tax-deductible as allowed by law.