The Nature Trust of BC’s mandate is to:

  • Acquire habitats of high biodiversity values and at greatest risk of being lost; and
  • Manage conservation lands as part of landscapes to ensure ecosystem resilience and connectivity.

Approximately 6% of the land base in British Columbia is privately owned. However, as illustrated through the findings in Taking Nature’s Pulse: The Status of Biodiversity in British Columbia, there is a disproportionate number of species and ecosystems at risk in the low elevation areas like valley bottoms and coastal lowlands where most of the private land is located.

This is where The Nature Trust plays a significant role to acquire and manage private land for conservation. The most effective way this is done is through partnerships with other conservation organizations and various levels of government to assemble land complexes to secure functioning ecosystems and ecological processes especially in light of climate change.

The Nature Trust secures habitat by direct land purchase, donations including ecological gifts, conservation covenants, or by a land lease. Our acquisitions have formed the core lands for several major conservation programs, numerous wildlife management areas, provincial parks and other conservation initiatives.

 

Land conservation is the purest and most effective form of nature protection

Ross Beaty, Advisory Board

Securement Tools

Securement tools include:

Fee Simple Acquisition

This means that The Nature Trust owns the land, which is the most secure form of conserving the land. There are a variety of ways that The Nature Trust gains ownership of land. In many cases it can be a combination of mechanisms:

  • land purchase,
  • land donation, and/or
  • transactions involving a partial donation with a cash purchase of the remaining fee simple title interest.

Donations of land may be gifted to The Nature Trust under the federal Ecological Gifts Program. There are increased tax benefits to the donor, however, the donation must comply with the eco-gift requirements.

Conservation Covenants

Conservation covenants provide an alternate approach to conserving habitat that does not involve the expense of acquiring the land fee simple.

A conservation covenant is a partial interest in land. It is a legally binding agreement voluntarily entered into between the landowner and The Nature Trust to restrict the use of the land to protect the conservation values of the property. The conservation covenant is registered against the title of the land and remains on the title no matter who subsequently owns the property. The conservation covenant is a tool that does not require the amount of money required to purchase a property, however, it is management intensive for the holder of the covenant to conduct the required monitoring. As such, The Nature Trust will seek an endowment to support the ongoing management responsibilities of the conservation covenant.

The Nature Trust only receives conservation covenants as donations.

Donations of land or conservation covenants may also be gifted to The Nature Trust under the federal Ecological Gifts Program. There are increased tax benefits to the donor, however, the donation must comply with the eco-gift requirements.

Leases and Licenses

The Nature Trust is also responsible for overseeing the grazing management of 47,000 hectares (116,000 acres) of habitat under long-term lease or grazing license related to the South Okanagan Biodiversity Ranches.

Securement Criteria

The Nature Trust uses a decision framework to prioritize potential acquisitions that are the most ecologically significant or with the most biodiversity. Our goal is to optimize results within constrained budgets.

Decisions on a piece of property are based on provincial, regional and site level analysis. We consider a number of factors such as types of habitat, geographic areas of focus, species richness, relative threat, by what means (fee simple, covenants, etc.) the property can be secured, availability and the cost.

Provincial

Taking Nature’s Pulse: the Status of Biodiversity in BC, defined four biogeoclimatic ecosystem classification (BEC) zones of conservation concern.

These priority regions are where The Nature Trust focuses our conservation efforts and identifies potential properties to secure:

  • Coastal Douglas-fir – ranked exceptional/high
  • Bunchgrass – ranked high
  • Ponderosa Pine – ranked high
  • Interior Douglas-fir- ranked high/medium

Regional

Properties located in the priority regions of BC are then considered in a relative evaluation using an expanded set of criteria. The biodiversity significance assesses species richness; rarity of ecological communities and species; and how much of the ecosystems on the site are already protected.

Richness takes into account the variety of species of plants and wildlife while rarity focuses on the number of endangered or vulnerable ecological communities, animals, and plants.

Site

At the site level, criteria include the actual condition of the property, such as how much of the natural habitat has been degraded by past human activities and the viability of the ecosystems and other biodiversity features being sustained over time. This includes consideration of landscape context and surrounding use (e.g. is it contiguous to conservation lands or in the midst of a future development area).

The relative threat is also assessed. This includes the need to secure or else impending actions (e.g. development) will lead to the loss of biodiversity values and the degree of urgency for management/stewardship actions to avoid loss of biodiversity values (e.g. invasive species management).

Cost and availability are added to the decision criteria.

This process of assessment helps us make the best decision in our quest to conserve BC’s natural diversity. All land acquisitions and funding are approved by the Board