Conservation Covenants

A conservation covenant is a written agreement between a landowner and a covenant holder, typically a local government, land trust or other conservation organization. The landowner agrees to protect the land as specified in the covenant, and to allow the covenant holder to monitor compliance. Covenants are attached to the land title, and remain in effect when the land is sold. They can be used to prohibit or restrict subdivision, development or other land uses, and to require that lands or amenities be conserved, restored or used for specified purposes. 'Amenities' may include a wide variety of features, including wildlife, plants, or environmental values.

Local governments often require conservation covenants as a condition of land subdivision, rezoning, or development permits to protect riparian areas, retain native vegetation or restrict access. Often land trusts or other conservation organizations co-hold the covenant with local governments, and take on the compliance monitoring responsibilities.

Near lytton, bc (c) Mike Pearson

Advantages include:

  • the ability to permanently protect land without buying it.
  • the ability to protect sensitive portions of a property without restricting use on the rest of it.
  • the ability to involve conservation organizations that will monitor compliance.
  • the ability to modify the covenant if all parties agree.

Disadvantages include:

  • the need for ongoing landowner outreach, as new owners may not understand the covenant's restrictions.
  • a potential reduction in property value.
  • the potential for high legal and land survey costs.
  • a reliance on regular compliance monitoring.

Examples

  • As a condition of rezoning, Cowichan Valley Regional District requires covenant protection of at least 33% of the land area of each parcel in the Shawnigan Lake Comprehensive Development Zone. The area is to consist of the most environmentally sensitive portions of the property.