Many landowners are looking for ways to conserve their property and ensure that their careful stewardship of the land will continue into the future.
Thames Talbot Land Trust works with each landowner to help achieve their goals – whether it is to protect woodland, a wetland, or some other significant natural or cultural feature.
There are many creative ways to meet your conservation objectives and achieve financial benefit. These include
- Keeping your property
- Transferring your property
- Using the Ecological Gifts Program
Your decision should be made only after careful consideration and after receiving professional advice. To learn more about how the following options might benefit you and your land, please contact us at [email protected]
Keeping your property
You may want to continue to own your property while considering conservation strategies offered by various agencies, including advice or assistance on how to be a good steward of the land.
You may qualify for a reduced property tax category, such as a conservation, managed forest, farm or heritage property designation.
Other options for both owning and conserving land are as follows:
One type, a conservation easement, is an agreement between a landowner and a qualified organization that protects a property long into the future. When an easement is registered in the land registry office, it will govern all future land owners as well. It creates a partnership in which the landowner continues to own and manage the property within a set of agreed restrictions monitored by a conservation organization such as TTLT.
Other agreements with a shorter term include management agreements, leases or licenses, or a review of the terms in existing agreements. These enable management and use of part or all of the land in appropriate ways while allowing the landowner to retain ownership.
Transferring your property
You may wish to protect your land into the future by transferring the property now, or by arranging to do so at a later date.
You can do this in several ways, including:
- Giving or selling the land to an organization with a conservation mandate
- Reserving a "life estate" when you give or sell the land, meaning that you or a family member can continue to live on the property until your death or theirs
- Selling or donating the land and then leasing it (or a portion of it) back for a certain period
- Protecting the land first with a conservation easement or other restriction before a transfer or sale
- Selling the land to a conservation organization at a discount, receiving a tax receipt for the amount below market value
Other possibilities can be considered if there is no urgency to immediately transfer the property. These include:
- The property, or a conservation easement on it, could be given in your will; the details are best worked out in advance to ensure that your objectives can be fully achieved
- You could grant a "right of first refusal" to a conservation organization giving them the first chance to buy the property, if and when you decide to sell
Purchases depend on a conservation organization raising the necessary funds, and this can take some time. Thus, installment payments or a mortgage can help pay for a purchased property over some months or years – or an "option" can allow the organization to raise funds over a certain period to meet a set purchase price.
Another option is to donate a property to a conservation organization which can sell it to raise funds to acquire a more ecologically-significant site.
The Ecological Gifts Program
Through Environment Canada's Ecological Gifts program, landowners can protect their land, create a legacy, and potentially enjoy a substantial tax benefit.
Since 1994, under the provisions of the Income Tax Act (Canada), the Ecological Gifts program has provided favourable income tax incentives to donors of ecologically sensitive lands (known as ecogifts), including donors of conservation easements.
A series of Income Tax Act amendments have allowed donors of ecogifts to apply the value of their gifts more fully against their income, and to reduce the taxable amount of the related capital gains. The program also contains safeguards to help ensure that the future use of ecogift properties is consistent with the original objectives of the gift.
Designation of a donation as an ecogift involves two steps. The first is the certification of a property as ecologically sensitive, and the second is the certification of the appraised value of the donation. Most conservation organizations, including TTLT, will assist landowners in negotiating the ecogift process.
Click here for more information about the Ecological Gifts program.
This page was prepared using excerpts from OLTA's Conservation Options publication and Environment Canada's Canadian Ecological Gifts Program Handbook 2005