Stewards of the Land
The acquisition of land is only the first step in the Land Trust’s long-term commitment to land conservation. Preservation, protection and careful management come together in the notion of ‘stewardship’. Land Trust properties and conservation covenants are a legacy for our collective enjoyment and for the benefit of future generations and a healthy planet. Protecting and enhancing the conservation values of lands the Trust acquires is some of the most import work that COLT does. The Trust evaluates every property for its conservation value and for threats to those values. A plan is then developed and implemented and includes annual inspection and monitoring of each property’s flora, fauna, and overall habitat health.
Let us encourage you to get out onto the lands and water in the Central Okanagan and discover so much about the land – its habitats and species – and about yourself.
The benefits of land conservation stretch beyond the environment and wildlife to include our communities, the economy, and cultural and spiritual values and benefits.
Benefits of Land Conservation and Stewardship
Water is an essential resource worldwide, and in a dry climate such as the Okanagan Valley its role becomes clear very quickly. Intact and healthy watersheds and riparian areas filter sediments and pollutants and provide us with clean drinking water. Sustaining these critical areas of our natural landscapes helps ensure the long term supply of clean water. The health benefits of adequate supplies of clean water are clear; and equally important are the economic benefits of naturally-clean water over expensive and elaborate water treatment systems.
Natural areas play a vital role in cleaning and purifying our air. Both forests and grasslands store carbon in the trees, other vegetation, and soils. This “carbon sequestration” is a critical part of the global carbon cycle which regulates the earth’s climate. As we move individually and collectively to address issues of climate change, this process will likely take on a more important role.
Wildlife habitat has disappeared at an alarming rate over the last 100 years, and this includes our own Central Okanagan region. These natural areas are critical components of preserving the planet’s overall biodiversity and the Okanagan’s unique character.
In addition, the riparian landscapes which provide us with clean water also provide a disproportionately higher value of habitat for wildlife, including food, cover, nesting sites, movement corridors and breeding areas.
In many ways, the environment is our ‘natural capital’, and a healthy environment has clear economic benefits for us all.
Healthy natural resources of timber, grasslands, wildlife, air, and water have a value today and into the future. Research has shown that it is often more cost-effective to conserve natural systems, than to try to restore them.
Property values are often enhanced by their proximity to parks and natural areas as demonstrated in studies in both the United States and Canada.
Increased Municipal Taxes
Parks and natural areas play an important role in attracting businesses and people which, in turn, strengthens the community’s tax base.
Cultural and Scenic Benefits
Not to be forgotten are the cultural and scenic benefits of good land conservation and stewardship. Certainly tourism benefits of viewscapes are well understood. For Central Okanagan residents, the availability of both active and passive parkland and natural areas enhances our overall quality of life.
Preserving Natural Lands
The Central Okanagan Land Trust works with landowners who are interested in leaving a conservation legacy. The following outlines a few of the conservation options available to help you preserve certain land values. You may want to protect a shoreline, woodland or stream, or to find creative solutions to promote ecologically sensitive agriculture, forestry or development. Together, we can help you achieve your plans for your land while protecting important natural and cultural values.
A decision to protect some aspect of the land you now hold is unique and personal. Some landholders want to protect the land’s natural or cultural features before passing it on to the next generation. Others may see conservation as a way to resolve property or potential income tax challenges. Other motivations may include ensuring privacy from neighbours or sorting out the future use of a property now shared by members of an expanding family or community group. Following, we provide a few examples of ways to link conservation choices with financial benefits.
Like many landowners, you may want to continue to own your property but still want to consider a number of conservation strategies. Short term agreements include stewardship agreement, management agreement, or leases or licenses.
COLT has a Stewardship Program, which may involve site visits by local biologists or naturalists who assist in conservation planning or in identifying natural or cultural features. Also, COLT can help you to find out more about non-toxic methods of landscape design and maintenance, or restoring the natural vegetation in your area.
You may also be able to qualify for farm or managed forestland property tax designations. In some cases, mixing farm or forestland uses with conservation are entirely feasible, while maintaining your reduced tax status.
Another option is the Conservation Covenant. This is a legal agreement between a landholder and COLT. It is registered on title to the land and will remain in effect after the land is sold or transferred, binding future owners of the land to the terms of the covenant. This agreement will ensure that features of the land that you want protected will remain in effect in perpetuity. COLT will record and monitor the state of the land long after the land has changed hands. This is a creative way of leaving a legacy of conservation for the future, and, you can still live on, use or sell the land you have protected.
You can protect your land into the future by arranging to transfer the property now, or at a later date. For example you might:
- donate or sell the land to COLT.
- reserve a “life estate” when you give or sell the land, meaning that you or a family member can continue to live on the property until your death or theirs.
- donate or sell the land to COLT and then lease it (or a portion) back for a certain period.
- protect areas or features of the land with a conservation covenant, then transfer it.
One creative and practical strategy is to donate a part of the proceeds of a land sale back to COLT. This provides the donor with a charitable tax receipt, while also decreasing the net purchasing cost. Alternately, land exchanges, partial land development to fund conservation, or other approaches might also be explored.
If there is no urgency to transfer the property, you could plan to donate the land through a will. The details for such a donation need to be worked out well in advance to ensure that your objectives will be fully realized.
Should you wish to sell your land to COLT, often some time is needed to come up with the funds. Thus, installment payments, a mortgage, or an “option to purchase” can allow us to raise funds over a longer period to meet your purchase price.
Another option is to grant COLT the “right of first refusal.” This means that we would have first rights to buy the property, if and when you decide to sell.
Of course, should your land not be of particular natural or cultural heritage value, you could still support land conservation by donating land or other cultural items for us to sell, in order to provide funds to acquire more ecologically significant sensitive lands. Any gifts of cash or goods are also generally welcome. These will help our ongoing costs of purchase, maintenance and monitoring.
Changes to Income Tax Regulations in May 2006 exempt otherwise taxable gains when land is donated to a Charity. Always check with your own legal and financial advisors.
Landowners who wish to preserve and protect their land from harmful alteration in the future may establish a relationship with a Land Trust. This might involve the donation of land or the registration of a conservation covenant to be held by a Land Trust such as the Central Okanagan Land Trust (COLT). The various strategies have a variety of tax consequences. The following is a brief outline only, and the specific circumstances should be discussed with a professional tax advisor.
Donations of land
If donation is being considered, the following steps are taken:
a. The land is appraised for its current fair market value.
b. The difference between the current value of the donated land and the original cost of the land may be considered a capital gain. If it is, then 50% of the amount must be included as income in the year of donation.
c. When land is donated to a charitable organization such as COLT, a charitable receipt will be issued which can be used to offset up to 75% of the income in the first year with any unused portion carried forward for five years.
d. If the land is considered Ecologically Sensitive by Environment Canada (a branch of the Ministry of the Environment), the entire value of the donation can be claimed ( rather than the 75% limit referred to in c. above).
e. Even when land is donated to a Land Trust, arrangements can be made allowing the owners to continue living on the land until they no longer wish.