Protect Your Land
“…how wonderful is it that nobody need wait a single moment before starting to improve the world.”
Why protect your land?
Do you have a sense of connection to the land you own? Does it have wildlife, plants, or special natural features that are precious to you? Does it have a bit of wilderness about it that you find meaningful?
If you love the land you live on, and care about the plants and animals that you share your land with, you can take action to ensure that your land’s special features and the habitat it provides for wildlife are saved in perpetuity. This will allow you to feel comfortable in the knowledge that your land and the habitats it contains will be enjoyed by future generations and will continue to provide a home for wildlife into the future—even if you are no longer there to protect and nurture it.
Wildlife populations are in sharp decline around the world, and the number one threat to wildlife species worldwide is loss of habitat, especially from agricultural and urban development. For example, in areas around the Salish Sea, Garry Oak meadows—one of the most critically endangered plant communities in Canada—dry Douglas-fir forests, and natural wetlands are being destroyed to make room for industry, shopping malls and suburban housing developments. Many of these vital ecosystems are on privately owned land, and therefore protection of private land can play an important role in conservation and can complement and enhance conservation efforts on publicly owned land.
On publicly owned lands, wildlife habitats are threatened by human activities such as logging, mining, high impact recreation, and fragmentation from roads and pipelines. By protecting your land, you may be able to offset some of these threats to native ecosystems and vulnerable species that depend upon them. Larger tracts of intact habitats are best, but even a small plot of land can provide a refuge for wild things.
How to protect your land
Putting a conservation covenant on your property creates a permanent sanctuary for the plants and animals you share your land with. With a conservation covenant, you still own the land, continue to live on it and sell it or pass it on to your heirs whenever you want. The covenant binds future owners to the same promises you have made, meaning the landscape you've loved and cared for remains protected in perpetuity.
Your land is still your land, but you agree to use and care for it in ways that protect its valuable natural features, and the covenant ensures that the natural features that you value today will continue to be protected into the future even after you sell or bequeath your land. The conservation agency, for example the Pender Islands Conservancy, Islands Trust Conservancy, or Habitat Acquisition Trust, promises to monitor the property on an ongoing basis, to ensure those natural features remain protected. In the event of a future landowner violating the terms of the covenant, the conservation agency is responsible for enforcing those terms.
A covenant can be placed on all or just some of your property, giving you the flexibility to continue to use and even further develop the unprotected portion of your lot.
There are financial benefits and costs associated with placing a covenant on your land. For more information visit these helpful blog post from Island Trust Conservancy, HAT or ITABC.
Donate your Land (or a portion of it)
If you have land that you love, especially if it has ecologically significant features, you may wish to protect it by donating your land to a registered land trust, such as the Pender Islands Conservancy or the Islands Trust Conservancy. This way your land will be protected and will continue to be a sanctuary for native plants and animals for generations to come. A conservation plan can be created to meet your vision of your land as a sanctuary into the future.
Donating your land for conservation gives you the peace of mind knowing the land you've cared for, and the plants and animals you've provided a home for, are safe and will never be lost to development. For more information visit these helpful posts from Island Trust Conservancy, HAT, and Canada.ca
Learn About The Tax Benefits
The steps in determining how land is valued, and thus taxed, are:
The land is appraised to determine its current fair market value. Assessors in BC are specifically directed to give “consideration to any terms or conditions contained in a conservation agreement” in determining the actual value of the property.
If the land is capital property, a charitable tax receipt can be issued for any amount between the original cost of the land and the current appraised fair market value.
Except for the donation of a principal residence, this may result in a capital gain (the difference of the value of the land upon purchase and its current value). If there is a capital gain, 50% of the gain (25% of the gift of land qualifies as an Ecological Gift) must be included as income in the year of donation.
When land is donated to a registered charity (your local land trust), the charitable tax receipt they issue can be used to offset 75% of your income in the first year (100% in the case of an gift of land qualifies as an Ecological Gift), with any unused portion carried forward for five years. The tax receipt generally will more than offset the amount of capital gain.
There is no land transfer tax applied to the registration of conservation covenants or the donations of lands to a registered charity in B.C. Land held by charities may qualify for additional property tax reductions.
Donations of land to a charity may also affect GST tax credits, pensions and other nonrefundable credits.
Charitable donations made in the year of death (a bequest) can be used to offset up to 100% of the individual's income.
Understanding Development Permit Areas (DPAs)
North Pender Island
Many people who live on Pender Island want to be a part of a community that actively protects and integrates natural spaces, and regulates potential quality of life impacts of commercial and industrial developments on the Island. Thus, the North Pender Island Local Trust Committee has designated portions of land and water as Development Permit Areas (DPAs) to protect sensitive and rare natural environments, or to address potential community concerns regarding commercially and industrially zoned properties.
If you are the owner of a property that is wholly or partly within a DPA, you will need to obtain a development permit before you can build, subdivide, or in any way alter your land.
Your application will be processed by Islands Trust planning staff, who will then present it to the Local Trust Committee (LTC) for their review and decision. The process takes time, since planning staff need time to review and process your application, and the LTC only meets once a month.
There is a cost to all of this. For DPAs that protect natural environments the application cost is approximately $200, and $850 for commercial and industrial applications.
Professional assessments by biologists or engineers are required as part of Development Permit applications, and these costs vary depending on, for example, the complexity of the proposed development and size of permit area.
DPAs can increase the value of your property.
According to the Islands Trust, research indicates properties with natural treed areas and other natural features can be worth up to 20% more than properties without these natural features. Also, properties affected by environmental DPAs may qualify for the Natural Area Protection Tax Exemption Program (NAPTEP).
Types of ecosystems protected by DPAs on Pender Island:
Woodlands, which include rare Garry Oak groves and mixed forests of arbutus and Douglas-fir, are the most threatened ecosystem in the Islands Trust area. Garry oak woodlands support the highest plant species diversity of any terrestrial ecosystem in British Columbia.
Herbaceous Ecosystems which are extremely rare and fragile areas that are vulnerable to disturbance and being overrun with invasive species. They comprise the island’s wildflower meadows and grassy hilltops, are characterized by their thin soils and interspersed moss-covered rock outcrops.
Riparian areas adjacent to streams and rivers. They store and purify water, are highly productive and complex ecosystems, and frequently used by wildlife for food, protection and as travel corridors. They are vulnerable to development, pollution, erosion, and fragmentation.
Wetlands, such as bogs, marshes and wet meadows, are becoming increasingly rare due to human activities. Wetlands have very high levels of biodiversity and provide vital habitat for a wide range of plants and animals.
Cliff Ecosystems occur on the island’s steep, vertical, or overhanging rock faces where sparse vegetation is often restricted to moisture and soil-retaining crevices and ledges.
Intertidal zones are ecologically important or sensitive intertidal habitats such as salt marshes, eelgrass and kelp beds which provide important habitat for sensitive and ecologically important fish and other marine organisms.
Raptor Nests: This DPA has been established to protect identified and sensitive bald eagle, raptor, and great blue heron nesting and breeding habitat.