Standard 8: Evaluating and Selecting Conservation Projects
The land trust carefully evaluates and selects its conservation projects.
Having choices about which land protection projects to undertake may seem like a luxury. Many land protection projects are done under great time pressure; the tendency is to protect now, think later. Sometimes that is inevitable. Yet unless the land trust exercises care in reviewing all of its projects, it may find itself with a property or a conservation agreement that serves little public interest, is costly to manage or defend, or does not fit with the land trust’s mission. Every land trust must find a balance between being strategic and being opportunistic. Land trusts that focus on their strategic priorities typically find that they can raise more funds and protect more land. These land trusts work with their partners to develop conservation priorities appropriate for their community. A land trust that does not prioritize and carefully select its projects may open itself to public criticism, credibility issues and even legal problems. In order for land conservation to maintain public credibility, it is essential that all land trusts carefully screen projects for the public benefit that will be provided. Once projects are selected, the land trust must determine how best to protect a given property’s resources. For each property, sufficient information must be gathered to make sound judgments and avoid unacceptable risks.
- Land Title Act, RSBC 1996, c. 250, s. 219:
- Receiver General – to hold Covenants in BC:
- Income Tax Act, SC 1985, c. I, s. 149.1 (6.3);
see also Canada Revenue Agency policy interpretations at
- Environmental Management Act, SBC 2003, c. 53, s. 40
- Contaminated Sites Regulation, BC Reg. 375/96, as am., s. 3.
- Canada Revenue Agency policy interpretation of Income Tax Act, SC 1985, c. I;
see Income Tax Technical News No. 26 at:
J. Evaluating Risks
The land trust examines the project for risks to the protection of important conservation values (such as hazardous waste and mineral rights issues, surrounding land uses, extraction leases or other encumbrances, water rights, potential credibility issues or other threats) and evaluates whether it can reduce or manage the risks. The land trust modifies the project or turns it down if the risks outweigh the benefits.
Land transactions may expose the organization to risks of hazardous waste liability, inability to protect the important conservation values adequately due to external circumstances, or damages to credibility. Physical examinations of the property and other sources of information allow the land trust to assess a project’s merit and identify its benefits, and to assess management and enforcement risks, and identify potential problems. Based on this information, the land trust makes decisions throughout the transaction process about how to proceed. If there are significant risks, the land trust may allow the project to continue on its course toward acquisition, stop for troubleshooting, modify the project, or if the problem is severe, enough reject the project outright. Accepting a project where the risks outweigh the benefits may be an unwise use of the time and money that people contribute to the land trust.
To move forward with a project, a land trust must be satisfied that the benefits are worth the land trust taking the risk.