Conservation covenants provide an important tool for protection of natural areas, but incentives are needed to offset start-up costs. Naturally functioning ecosystems play a central role in our economy by provide essential services such as clean water, fertile soil, carbon storage and an attractive place to live and work.
There’s a critical need to stop the loose and degradation of sensitive, rare natural areas, to protect and restore biodiversity, and to safeguard ecosystem values. Much of these areas are in private ownership, making acquisition and protection expensive. There is therefore a particular need to enhance conservation of privately-owned natural areas through voluntary actions.
The Union of BC Municipalities and BC Min of Environment have expressed support for a CTIP modeled on NAPTEP.
The Comox Valley Regional District presented a resolution to the 2015 UBCM convention calling for provincial enabling legislation to allow local governments to implement a CTIP modeled on NAPTEP. This UBCM resolution was unanimously approved. The BC government has adopted a strategy called "Protecting Vulnerable Species: Five-Plan for Species at Risk in British Columbia". This strategy recommends the adoption of "new ways (including incentives and possible project funding) to promote voluntary protection of species at risk." Adoption of a CTIP is considered a priority for implementation of this plan. Further endorsements by local governments, landowners and interested organizations are needed!
A province-wide conservation tax incentive program would have a positive impact on the rate of natural area protection through conservation covenants.
The Natural Area Protection Tax Exemption Program (NAPTEP), in the Gulf Islands area, is a model for a Conservation Tax Incentive Program. NAPTEP applies only to qualifying natural areas which are also classed as residential (Class 11 land and only to the portion of a property which is covered by a covenant. The program offers a 65% reduction in the land tax on such areas. The program is fully voluntary and allows regional and local governments to opt-In. NAPTEP has functioned successfully for 10 years and has the endorsement of all local governments where It applies.
The Land Trust Alliance of BC and partners are promoting the establishment of a province-wide "Conservation Tax Incentive Program"(CTIP).
This would be established through amendment of provincial legislation and would allow local governments to offer property tax reduction on land under conservation covenants which give permanent protection to ecologically important, privately owned, natural areas.
We invite local governments, landowners, land trusts and others to join us in expressing support for this fully-voluntary, low-cost approach to protection of our valuable environment.
CTIP would not reduce tax revenue nor require provincial reimbursement to local governments.
NAPTEP creates a small tax shift from those who participate to those who don't - similar to agricultural and heritage tax exemption. A 2005 study by the Island Trust Fund examined the expected tax shift if a small portion of total residential properties in the Island Trust parts of the Capital Regional District and Sunshine Coast Regional District participated. If 5% of residential properties (about 167 properties) in these areas participated, the tax shift to all other properties in the province would be about $0.07 per property per year. The tax shift to properties in the IT areas in the RDs would be about $2.25 per property per year. Since the total enrolment in NAPTEP across all of the IT area has been 23 properties over a 10 year period (well below the level of 5% of all eligible properties) the tax shift impact has been extremely small.
In an average year LTABC enjoys the support of roughly 2,500 patrons who cumulatively contribute over 30,000 volunteer hours!