Nova Scotia has established a legislated goal of protecting 12 per cent of the provincial land mass by 2015 (Environmental Goals and Sustainable Prosperity Act). To reach this goal, the province needs private land owners to protect some or all of their lands to help protect our natural legacy for the benefit of all Nova Scotians.
One way a private land owner can protect their land is through a conservation easement - a legally binding agreement between a landowner and a conservation organization (such as a land trust) or government conservation agency that attaches to the title to the land. The land remains the private property of the owner and the decision to place a conservation easement on a property is strictly a voluntary one, however once the easement is in place it restricts future use of the land. Development restrictions contained in the agreement are registered with the property deed and apply to both current and future landowners. Generally, a Conservation Easement is made for the purpose of protecting, restoring or enhancing land that contains rare or outstanding species, important habitats, natural ecosystems, land forms, or landscapes that the owner and the province would like to protect for future generations.
Placing a conservation easement on your property and restricting land-altering activities will likely reduce the fair market value of the land, depending on the types of restrictions placed on it. For example, conservation easements that prohibit all development will result in the greatest reduction in market value, while conservation easements that protect most of your land but allow for the construction of a residence will likely result in a smaller reduction in market value. In some cases, a conservation easement could even increase the value of your property.
If you put a conservation easement on your land, you are entitled to a charitable donation receipt equal to the reduction in market value. In addition, the area of land protected by the conservation easement will be exempt from property tax.
Nova Scotians interested in preserving their land for conservation purposes should contact local conservation organizations, such as the Nova Scotia Nature Trust, Ducks Unlimited Canada, or the Nature Conservancy of Canada. These organizations have already done significant work to help the province protect valued areas for future generations. These, and other organizations, are considered "Eligible Bodies" under the Conservation Easement Act and can assist private individuals in protecting their land under the Act. Further information is also available through Nova Scotia Environment, the department responsible for the province's land conservation goals.