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J.2-3: Coots, Lines of Credit and Conservation Easements - Innovative approaches to conservation in the PPR

Presented by Scott Stephens - Email: s_stephens@ducks.ca

Approaches to conserving waterfowl habitat in the Prairie Pothole Region have been varied and diverse through time. There has typically been a trade-off between the cost of conservation and the length of security for the habitat despite the fact that the desired outcome is perpetual protection at broad scales. Ducks Unlimited Canada had traditionally approached perpetual conservation through fee-title acquisition starting in the mid-1980's with the advent of NAWMP programming and NAWCA funding. However, continuing appreciation of land values and ongoing costs of management/maintenance have limited the utility of this tool to achieve conservation impacts at scale. Enabling legislation for conservation easements happened across the three Prairie provinces in the early 1990s. Conservation easement costs are typically 1/3rd of the fee-title value of the land and thus offer a larger conservation footprint for the same dollars. However, interest in conservation easements had been limited. Starting in 2014, Ducks Unlimited Canada began using a revolving land conservation program (RLCP) approach using a line-of-credit to fund the capital purchase. Any required habitat restorations are completed on these properties and then perpetual conservation easements are attached as a requirement of the sale of the properties back into private ownership. This approach has proved to have utility and is also more socially acceptable amongst the agricultural community across the Canadian PPR than fee-title ownership by NGOs like DUC. This program has had the indirect benefit of instigating discussions with private landowners on how conservation easements function and how they can benefit landowners. As a result, DUC has seen a six-fold increase in the total acres impacted by conservation easements over the past 6 years.
Session: Conservation & Planning (Friday, August 30, 13:20 to 15:00)