1. What is the Central Okanagan Land Trust?

In 1990 the Central Okanagan Foundation felt it was time for this part of the Okanagan Valley to incorporate a Land Trust that could accept land or other material assets, to purchase or hold land for the “preservation, conservation or fostering of nature or wildlife sanctuaries, parks or reserves” for future generations. The Central Okanagan Foundation and the City of Kelowna [whose Mayor and Council heartily endorsed this proposal] each donated $25,000 and the RDCO provided $9000 as ‘seed’ money. The new organization, a charitable institution capable of issuing tax receipts for donations, (Charitable No. 0886838-52) was originally called the Central Okanagan Parks and Wildlife Trust, and its name was simplified in 2007 to the Central Okanagan Land Trust.

The Board of Directors take a pro-active approach to securing additional lands, particularly those that are sensitive as wildlife habitat including wetlands and riparian habitat, pocket grasslands and other environmentally sensitive landscapes that are fast disappearing in the Central Okanagan.

2. What is a Land Trust?

Land trusts are generally non-profit charitable organizations working to conserve land with natural and other heritage values. They do this both through the acquisition of land or through conservation covenants.

Most land trusts are local or regional and they are most commonly supported by donations from generous residents and businesses in the area they serve.

3. How do local Land Trusts work?

As incorporated non-profit charities, land trusts raise funds to purchase lands or they enter into conservation covenants that protect properties of ecological or other cultural significance.

Local land trusts are also able to receive donations of land and conservation covenants, and they are mandated to protect these sites in perpetuity. The Canadian Land Trust Alliance (CLTA) has set Standards and Practices that land trusts are encouraged to follow.

4. How does COLT decide which lands to protect?

COLT is developing a policy that identifies the important types of natural areas and features to protect, as well as other criteria to decide whether a project is worthwhile. This information is based on input from local people, research and experience.

For properties that landowners themselves bring forward, we gather information to determine whether the site is an important fit with COLT’s mandate, whether we are the right partner to help out, and what approach makes most sense to everyone involved.

5. What does COLT do with the properties it secures?

For lands that COLT acquires, we develop a management plan to guide its future use, based on input from the donors and other parties such as local and/or regional government. Our main interest is to conserve the important natural and cultural features on the property while also allowing compatible uses.

For conservation covenants, the landowner still owns and decides what to do with the property, within the terms of the agreement.

6. Why is it important to conserve properties in the Central Okanagan region?

It is the natural and cultural landscapes that make our region unique and special. Growing urban pressures on such features, their recreational and aesthetic values, as well as their functions and the species they support puts undue stress on these unique settings. These pressures and the resulting changes can affect the character of the region and its attractiveness for residents, businesses and visitors.

The Central Okanagan Land Trust works with individuals, groups, and other agencies to secure and maintain these special places in our region.

7. What is the difference between COLT and other organizations?

COLT is a registered charity, meaning that it operates solely for public benefit and can issue tax receipts. In addition, COLT is registered with Environment Canada’s Ecological Gifts program, which may trigger additional tax benefits to donors.

While we support many conservation and stewardship activities offered by other organizations, what distinguishes COLT is our focus on long-term legal commitments to conservation in the Central Okanagan region. This means that protected lands remain conserved and will not potentially be at risk when a good steward transfers the property to a new owner.

8. I want to donate but don’t know where to start – where can I get help?

Donors can contact COLT directly.

COLT will do everything possible to help you feel very comfortable working with you through the entire donation process. It is also important for donors to get independent legal and financial advice about land donations.

9. What does COLT do with donor dollars?

COLT operates primarily on volunteer effort, meaning that donor dollars are focused on our main mission of conserving land.

Funds are used to let landowners know about their conservation options as well as support the legal, appraisal, and other technical aspects of securing land. Funds may be used in maintaining the property in order to ensure its conservation over the long term. We may also undertake some other activities such as interpretive signage, trail maintenance etc. Some of the larger costs may be for technical fees, severances to allow parts of properties to be conserved, insurance and property taxes. As a registered charitable society, COLT is able to issue receipts suitable for income tax purposes for donations made to its operations.

10. What land conservation options are available to me?

There are number of options for landowners who wish to conserve their lands. COLT helps sort through these to find the one or combination that makes the most sense. Essentially, the options are of two categories:

  • options if you want to retain ownership for the long term
  • options if you want to donate or sell the property

Landowners can donate all or a part of their land to COLT or enter into an agreement (conservation covenant) that will protect the land, even after a change in ownership.

11. What is a conservation covenant?

A conservation covenant is a tool to allow you to protect your land permanently while still retaining ownership. Read More..

Under a conservation covenant, a landowner agrees to maintain the conservation, ecological, cultural or other values of the land, while retaining ownership of it. The owner receives a tax receipt for the difference between the appraised fair-market value of the land and the newly-assessed value of the land based on the agreed environmental restrictions. The conservation covenant is registered on the title of the land. The land may be sold or passed on over generations, but the conservation covenant remains in place forever. When a conservation covenant is donated, such a donation may also qualify as an ecological gift.

12. Can I continue to own my land but oblige future owners to protect its natural heritage features?

Yes, a conservation covenant donated to a land trust is attached to the title of the property in perpetuity. As a result, all future landowners are bound to its terms.

Current and subsequent landowners are free to sell or otherwise transfer title to the land. In such cases the conservation covenant is still held by the land trust and the land continues to be subject to the conditions of the conservation covenant. A conservation covenant donated on a voluntary basis may qualify as an ecological gift under the Income Tax Act of Canada, allowing corporate or individual donors to obtain an official donation receipt and claim an enhanced tax benefit.

13. What is an Ecological Gift and what are its tax benefits?

An Ecological Gift (or “Ecogift”) is a donation of land or a conservation covenant under the federal tax program of the same name. The land donated as an Ecogift must be considered ecologically sensitive under various criteria, by Environment Canada. The Ecological Gifts Program (EGP) provides a way for those with ecologically sensitive land to protect natural areas and leave a legacy for future generations, through special tax assistance.

Donors of Ecogifts receive a donation receipt for the fair market value of the gift. An Ecogift allows donors to claim their charitable credits against 100% of income in the year the gift is made. Unused credits can be carried forward and used over a further five years. Recent changes by the federal government mean that an Ecogift designation now also eliminates capital gains tax.

Under the EGP, Environment Canada certifies the land is ecologically sensitive, approves the recipient, and certifies the fair market value of the gift. Ecogifts receive tax treatment that is superior to most other charitable gifts:

Eliminated taxable capital gain on the disposition of the property (38 (a.2) ITA)

No income limit for calculating the tax credit/deduction (118.1 ITA)

Donation value certified by the Government of Canada (118.1(10.1 to 10.5) ITA)

Tax liability for donors that do not protect the gifted land (207.31 ITA)

Every case is different, so you should seek independent professional advice.

14. How do I determine the natural value of my property?

COLT can assist you in determining whether your property has important ecological features. This could also be confirmed by discussions with your local government.

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