Frequently Asked Questions
What is the Natural Areas Conservation Program?
The Natural Areas Conservation Program (NACP) is a partnership to accelerate the rate of private land conservation and protect important natural habitat in communities across southern Canada, with priority given to:
- land that is nationally and provincially significant;
- land that conserves habitat for species at risk;
- land that enhances the connections between existing protected areas such as National Parks.
The Nature Conservancy of Canada (NCC) administers the program, securing ecologically significant lands — including forests, grasslands and wetlands — with the participation of Ducks Unlimited Canada and other land trusts.
How does the Natural Areas Conservation Program partnership work?
Environment and Climate Change Canada provides funding for the program, which is managed by NCC. Local land trusts (“Other Qualified Organizations”), including Ducks Unlimited Canada, have participated in the program.
Federal funding is matched with non-federal funding or land donations by NCC and partners.
Are lands secured under the Natural Areas Conservation Program accessible to the public?
More than 80 percent of Canadians live within 100 kilometres of a project secured under the program. Most of these lands conserved remain accessible to the public. Traditional uses and non-motorized recreational activities are also often permitted.
How does NCC determine the price to pay for land secured with federal funding under the Natural Areas Conservation Program?
Whether through the program or not, NCC only secures properties from willing vendors. Lands secured by NCC have been identified for their ecological value based on our conservation planning process. If a property of interest is listed for sale, NCC competes on the open market against other interested buyers.
As responsible community partners and prudent managers of funding from our supporters, NCC’s appraisal policies ensure that we do not inflate local land prices when we purchase properties for conservation purposes.
How is land secured under the Natural Areas Conservation Program?
The program provides funding for both direct acquisition of ecologically sensitive lands, through purchase or donation, as well as conservation agreements to support working landscapes. A conservation agreement (sometimes called a covenant, easement or servitude) is a voluntary, legal agreement between a landowner and NCC, where we secure an interest in the land to protect certain conservation features.
How do fee-simple projects differ from conservation agreements?
Lands secured by NCC are often purchased outright or donated, where the title to the land has been transferred to NCC. These are referred to as “fee-simple” projects.
In other cases, NCC will secure an interest in the land in the form of a conservation agreement (also known as conservation easement, covenant or servitude) to protect certain conservation features. A conservation agreement is a voluntary, legal agreement between a landowner and NCC that sets mutually agreed upon restrictions to certain activities on the land in order to protect its conservation values.
Most conservation agreements serve to protect working landscapes, where biodiversity is maintained in collaboration with sustainable agriculture or ranching. These working landscapes allow landowners to continue to practice their economic activities and to help maintain biological values on their property.
Under the Natural Areas Conservation Program, more than 390,000 acres (158,000 hectares) were secured through a conservation agreement that restricts mining activity in the Flathead River Valley, involving the collaboration of NCC and multiple partners on both sides of the Canada-U.S. border.
What happens to agricultural land secured under the Natural Areas Conservation Program?
At NCC, we know that some of the best stewards of the land are the people who live on it. Innovative agreements with ranchers and farmers help us support working landscapes where conservation and agriculture coexist. Agricultural land is therefore typically secured by NCC through conservation agreements, where biodiversity is maintained in collaboration with sustainable land use practices.
In cases where NCC has acquired agricultural land through a fee-simple transaction, and that the landscape has been heavily altered, land may be restored for conservation purposes.
Has NCC been the only beneficiary of federal funding under the Natural Areas Conservation Program?
The Government of Canada has entrusted NCC with the management and disbursement of the $277.5 million invested by the government to date. Of that amount, more than $41 million has been invested in projects led by 38 land trusts ("Other Qualified Organizations"), including Ducks Unlimited Canada.
How are NCC and other partners held accountable for federal funding under the Natural Areas Conservation Program?
As part of the program, NCC completes Annual Progress Reports highlighting the accomplishments of the program— including audited financial statements — which are then submitted to Environment and Climate Change Canada.
Every five years, NCC is required to undergo an independent, third-party evaluation of the program to measure our overall performance in achieving program outcomes. The first evaluation was completed in 2012, covering the period of spring 2007 to spring 2012. The results are positive and conclude that:
- the program has been delivered efficiently and effectively;
- the program is aligned with the Government of Canada’s priorities and international and domestic commitments;
- significant progress has been made on virtually all expected program outcomes; and
- there remains a need for private land conservation to address threats to biodiversity, particularly in southern Canada.
Where is the Natural Areas Conservation Program focused?
The program aims to secure ecologically significant land primarily across southern Canada. As a result, more than 40 percent of lands conserved under the program by NCC are located within 100 kilometres of Canada’s largest cities, providing natural spaces within an hour’s drive for 82 percent of Canadians.
What happens once lands have been secured under the Natural Areas Conservation Program?
NCC is committed to caring for lands conserved under the program in perpetuity. As part of our operations, NCC develops a strategy for the long-term maintenance and restoration of lands we acquire. For conservation agreements, NCC conducts periodic monitoring activities to ensure that the terms of the agreement are being met. The program also provides funding for short-term stewardship actions, such as signage.
As part of the program, NCC and Ducks Unlimited Canada will complete priority conservation actions and monitor conservation agreements on lands secured through the program. Some funding has been provided by the federal government for such actions.
Although long-term stewardship funding by the federal government is restricted under the Natural Areas Conservation Program, NCC ensures that we have the long-term resources to manage and maintain the properties in our care. For every project completed by NCC, we ensure that a minimum of 15 percent of the property’s land value will be fundraised to invest in our Stewardship Endowment Fund. Annual benefits from the endowment fund help us pay property taxes and invest resources in the management of our lands.
What has the Natural Areas Conservation Program achieved?
Since 2007, $277.5M has been invested in the NACP by Environment and Climate Change Canada. This investment has been matched with more than $500M in contributions of donated land and funding from provincial governments, the private sector and Canadians at large.
More than 418,000 hectares (1 million acres) has been conserved since the onset of the program. The NACP is on track to conserve $1B worth of ecologically significant land by 2020.
Habitat not only conserves our biodiversity; it also sequesters carbon dioxide and stores a substantial amount of carbon. Conserved areas provide opportunities for ecosystems and species to adapt to climate change and help mitigate threats such as flooding and drought.
The program also protects habitat for many of Canada’s endangered and iconic species, such as grizzly bear, mountain caribou and plains bison. To date, habitat has been protected for more than 181 COSEWIC*-assessed species at risk.
How does the Natural Areas Conservation Program support NCC’s conservation work?
The program supports NCC’s work by accelerating the pace of private land conservation across Canada. Thanks to the Government of Canada, more than $200 million has been directly invested in NCC’s conservation efforts, providing an incentive for NCC to more than double the federal government’s impact with funding from non-federal sources.
Who do I contact to learn more about the Natural Areas Conservation Program?
Please contact our Government Relations Coordinator at the Nature Conservancy of Canada, at 1-800-465-0029, extension 2259.