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.
How Do I Start?
Before we start any covenant process, we always recommend that landowners 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:
- View documents and FAQs on our Conservation Covenants page.
- Annotated Conservation Covenant – A conservation covenant can be individually tailored to you and your land. However, this is the standard covenant template we typically start with. This template can be used for conservation covenants and NAPTEP covenants.
- 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?
- Review all background information provided on our Conservation Covenants page and consider whether your property and vision meet our criteria. A covenanted area typically does not include buildings, septic fields, gardens, or other heavily impacted land. If you propose covenanting only a portion of your property, consider where the boundaries of the covenant area will lie and how big the covenant area will be.
- Contact Islands Trust Conservancy Staff to discuss your covenant plans (see contact details below).
- Consider whether you would like a second organization, such as an island-based conservancy, to co-hold the covenant with the Islands Trust Conservancy. Review our list of local conservancies and land trusts in your area.
- Download and complete the Conservation Proposal Form OR the NAPTEP application form, depending on whether or not you’re planning to also apply to enter the NAPTEP program. This provides us with information about you and the natural features of the property, which the ITC Board will consider when making a decision about your proposal.
- 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 complete proposal, a staff member will follow up with you to arrange a visit to the property with you.
- Following the site visit, your proposal will be submitted to the Board for consideration. The Islands Trust Conservancy Board meets every two months, so this will impact the time it will take to review your proposal.
- Following the Board’s decision, an ITC staff member will contact you with the outcome(s) of your proposal.
What happens if the Board approves your proposal?
If the Board approves your proposal to covenant your land, that is the first of many steps.
Once your proposal is approved there are additional steps we will need to take to register a covenant on the land.
- If you are hoping to enter NAPTEP, Trust Council reviews your proposal and decides whether to accept your proposed covenant into the NAPTEP tax exemption program.
** 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.**
- An Islands Trust Conservancy staff member will draft the proposed covenant, and send it to you to review, preferably with your lawyer.
- Review, revise, repeat! 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, so you will want to make sure the final document enables us to reach a shared conservation vision 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. The survey is registered at the Land Titles Office with the covenant.
- You will need to hire an environmental professional to conduct a Baseline Report (they will need to be approved by the Islands Trust Conservancy). The baseline report documents the state of the land at the time the covenant was registered.
- Once the terms of the covenant, the baseline report, and survey are complete and agreed upon by you, the Trust Board, and any co-covenant holders, all parties must sign the covenant.
- The covenant is then registered at the Land Titles Office to be placed on your property’s title.
How much will this process cost?
The landholder’s 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 ($3,000 to $7,000+)
- A baseline report that describes and maps the land at the time the covenant is registered (ecological features and any human features) ($2,500 to $5,000+)
- Registration fees for the covenant ($400), plus notary or a lawyer to witness document signatures ($100+)
- Your own legal advice on the terms of the covenant, and tax/financial advice ($500 to $3,000+)
- An appraisal (typically only required if you’re entering the Ecological Gifts Program) ($4,000 to $7,000+)
- NAPTEP Application fees ($450) – for NAPTEP applicants only
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.
- North & South Pender Landowners: The Morrison Waxler Biodiversity Protection Legacy Fund offers grants to North & South Pender landowners to cover some of the costs involved with registering a conservation covenant or NAPTEP covenant. Email us to learn more or to apply for this grant – firstname.lastname@example.org .
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 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 after 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 us and another conservancy, a representative of that conservancy may also accompany our property monitor.
During our visit, we will access the covenant area through the agreed upon right-of-way and will not venture into other areas. The 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 and take pictures to document the state of the covenant area.
Our property monitors are Islands Trust Conservancy staff members. This means you’ll see a familiar face each year, and that person will be knowledgeable of any special circumstances surrounding your protected area.
If you’re unsure if your land is eligible for a conservation covenant, please contact our staff to discuss the specifics of your land.