The Nature Trust of British Columbia secures wildlife habitat by direct land purchase, donations that include ecological gifts, life estates, conservation covenants, and by land lease or license. Our land acquisitions have formed the core lands for several major conservation programs, numerous provincially designated Wildlife Management Areas, Provincial Parks and other conservation initiatives.

The Nature Trust of BC uses science-based criteria to evaluate the importance of potential acquisitions  based on the ecological significance and costs associated with securement and management of the land.

Ways to Conserve Land

Since 1971, The Nature Trust of British Columbia has acquired conservation lands that include fee simple acquisitions, conservation covenants, and long term leases or licenses on Crown land.

Fee Simple Acquisition

A Fee Simple acquisition means that The Nature Trust of BC owns the land, which is the most secure form of conserving land. There are a variety of ways that The Nature Trust obtains 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.

In specialized circumstances land owners have sold and/or donated land to The Nature Trust and have also retained a right to use the land. This has been done through a life estate.

Donations of land may also be gifted to The Nature Trust of BC under the federal Ecological Gifts Program. This program offers increased tax benefits to the donor. However, the donation must comply with the eco-gift requirements.

NTBC first conservation property, Grand Forks in Kootenay Boundary Region

Conservation Covenants

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

A conservation covenant provides The Nature Trust of BC with a partial interest in land. It is a legally binding agreement, voluntarily entered into between the landowner and The Nature Trust, which restricts the use of the land to protect the conservation values of the property in perpetuity. 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 money to purchase a property. However, it is management intensive for The Nature Trust, as the covenant holder, to conduct the required annual monitoring of the land. 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 conservation covenants may also be gifted to The Nature Trust of BC under the federal Ecological Gifts Program. This program offers 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 wildlife habitat conserved under long-term lease or grazing license. These conservation lands are part of The Nature Trust’s Biodiversity Ranches located in the South Okanagan.

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

Ross Beaty, Advisory Board

Securement Criteria

The Nature Trust of BC uses a decision framework to prioritize potential acquisitions that are the most ecologically significant, while optimizing conservation within constrained budgets. Properties are evaluated based on the types of ecosystems and species present, geographic areas of concern, relative threat, and by the means (fee simple, covenants, etc.) that the property can be secured.

There are four priority regions for The Nature Trust’s conservation focus (where we proactively identify candidate properties to secure) based on findings from an assessment of the status of biodiversity in British Columbia, called Taking Nature’s Pulse, which The Nature Trust of BC co-chaired. These four priority regions are Biogeoclimatic Ecosystem Classification (BEC) zones that are considered to be of conservation concern and include:

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

These BEC zones have been identified as a conservation concern because of the rarity of both the species and ecological communities present within the BEC zone and the threat to the rare biodiversity from ecosystem conversion and degradation.

Although our focus is on these four zones of conservation concern, the relative ecological significance of all potential acquisitions in British Columbia are assessed using criteria that include species richness, rarity of ecological communities and species, contiguity with other conservation lands, and whether the ecosystems found on the site are already protected elsewhere. Species richness takes into account the variety of plant and animal species present, while rarity focuses on the number of endangered or vulnerable plant and animal species, and ecological communities.

The Nature Trust of British Columbia is associated with regional conservation partnership programs. These partnerships provide a better understanding of the unique conservation issues and regional ecology. In some regions, The Nature Trust of BC has helped to identify regionally important criteria for evaluating ecological significance. The Nature Trust considers these regional evaluations when assessing the ecological significance of potential acquisitions.

Once a property has been identified as being ecologically significant, a site level assessment is done that includes the actual condition of the property (an evaluation of the natural habitat related to degradation by past human activities) and the viability of the property for maintaining the ecosystems over time. The surrounding land use is taken into consideration when assessing viability (e.g. is it contiguous with other conservation lands or in the midst of a future development area). Furthermore, if there are known impending threats (e.g. development or invasive species) that will lead to the loss of biodiversity values, the degree of urgency for securement and stewardship is also taken into consideration.

With the addition of the overall cost to purchase, as well as to manage the property to maintain or enhance its ecological values over time, these securement criteria help us make the best decisions in our quest to conserve BC’s natural diversity.

NTBC Salmon River property on Vancouver Island