In lieu of last year’s land purchase just outside of Nelson, land protection strategies are on the minds of many. Known as the Darkwoods, this 550 square kilometre property was purchased by the Nature Conservancy of Canada and is said to be ‘one of the largest single private conservation projects ever undertaken by a Canadian non-profit organization’. The great swath of remote valleys, lakes and mountain-scape will now remain protected from further development; a cairn for conservation indeed.
British Columbia, and of course, the Columbia Basin, is quilted together by an array of ecological gems. Being able to view and explore grasslands, wetlands, old-growth forests and wildflower-kissed alpine ecosystems are what many of us equate with being residents of BC. Beyond recreational value, simply knowing there are portions of wilderness that will never be developed puts many at ease, including the wildlife that rely on these areas.
As is the case with many mountain towns, Revelstoke is in transition. Being a pro-active land steward and learning the tools that are available to protect your property’s ecological values, has the potential to protect your land regardless of future ownership. With valley bottoms continuing to be modified by development, plant and animal communities will undoubtedly be grateful for increased land stewardship.
According to The Land Conservancy, private land stewardship is ‘the voluntary conservation of ‘natural resources and habitats founds on the land over which you as a landowner have some influence’. The last seven words of this statement being key: there are conservation tools that you, as the landowner, can use to influence the direction your land will take.
What are these conservation tools? Voluntary tools for long-term protection of your land can include conservation covenants or eco-gifts. A conservation covenant is one of the most powerful and flexible tools available; it allows the landowner to define the direction they would like the land to take, even if ownership is transferred. Conservation covenants are ‘voluntary, legal agreements between landowners and conservation organizations’. For example, you may agree to abstain from logging or you may agree to not subdivide your property. A conservation covenant remains with the land.
It is also possible to donate or sell your land to a land trust, who then takes responsibility for the long-term management of your property and sees that it is protected for perpetuity. To learn about the Ecological Gifts program visit the Canadian Wildlife Service online at: www.cws-scf.ec.gc.ca/ecogifts.
Whether your land has ecological, agricultural, recreational, historical, scenic or scientific value there are several land trusts (both provincial and national) that are dedicated to working with landowners to protect their land. The Land Conservancy, The Nature Conservancy and The Nature Trust are three land trusts operating in the Columbia Basin.
It is always disheartening to see valuable land, habitat and natural space left to an unknown future, especially when the surrounding communities are so strongly connected to the property. Rather than speculating the fate of your land, consider the conservation options that are available: act for both the present and future generations. There are many generations to come that will glean respect, understanding and perhaps a deep sense of stewardship from the land you conserve.
If you would like more detailed information on land trusts and their role in conservation please visit The Land Conservancy’s website at www.conservancy.bc.ca where you can discover the variety of properties that have been protected, as well as further resources.
Emily Nilsen is with the The Land Conservancy of British Columbia.
If you have any questions about where to begin, contact The Land Conservancy’s Nelson office at (250) 354-7345.