The primary purpose of conservation lands is to conserve and manage important habitat for the benefit of regionally or internationally significant fish and wildlife species. This includes habitat that is vital for:
- Sensitive, vulnerable, or at-risk species.
- Critical species life-cycle phases such as spawning, rearing, nesting, or winter feeding.
- Species migration routes or other movement corridors.
- Supporting unusually high species productivity or diversity.
Conservation lands often concurrently provide for a range of opportunities for public access, including day hiking, hunting and fishing, wildlife viewing, scientific research and education, and traditional activities of First Nations.
Conservation lands also comprise an important part of the broader spectrum of protected lands and waters in the province. Some conservation lands, for example, provide important buffer zones and corridors between core protected areas that enable movement of species during seasonal migrations or in response to ecological variations or climate changes.
Types of Conservation Lands
Various legal tools and agreements are used to acquire or secure conservation lands. These securement methods can generally be divided into the following two categories.
Administered conservation lands
These are lands over which legal administration and management authority have been acquired by way of:
- Wildlife Management Area designation under section 4 of the Wildlife Act. Learn more about Wildlife Management Areas
- Fee Simple acquisition through direct purchase, land exchange, or donation of private land.
- Securement of privately owned land that is leased to the Province, usually for a long-term duration (99 years).
- Crown Transfer of Administration under section 106 of the Land Act, or similar legal mechanism.
Non-administered conservation lands
These are lands over which a recorded ‘interest’ has been secured for fish and wildlife, but not administration and management authority. The majority of these have been obtained through Land Act mechanisms that either preclude or constrain certain uses or tenures for a specified period of time, or require that the holder of the interest be contacted regarding proposed changes in land use. These legal mechanisms include:
- Land Act section 15 Order-in-Council reserve (OIC reserve).
- Land Act section 17 Conditional Withdrawal (or Designated Use Area).
- Land Act section 16 Temporary Withdrawal (or Map Reserve).
As of 2019, there were approximately 260,000 hectares of Wildlife Management Areas and other administered conservation lands across British Columbia, and non-administered conservation lands comprising another 640,000 hectares. Habitat enhancement projects with Ducks Unlimited Canada outside those lands cover an additional 8,300 hectares. Find more on locations and contact information for conservation lands
Importance of Partnerships
Partnerships and multi-partner arrangements with non-governmental organizations, various levels of government, and others involved in securing and managing land for conservation purposes have played a central role in the history and development of the Conservation Lands Program. Some of the Ministry’s key conservation land partners include:
- Ducks Unlimited Canada
- The Nature Trust of British Columbia
- Habitat Conservation Trust Foundation
- Nature Conservancy of Canada
- Environment and Climate Change Canada/Canadian Wildlife Service
- First Nations and other federal, provincial and local government agencies
- Other non-governmental organizations and industry
To take advantage of efficiencies between organizations with similar mandates and to avoid potentially costly competition, many of these long-standing partnerships have been formalized in regional, provincial or international multi-party initiatives focused on acquiring and managing conservation lands. These initiatives currently include, for example:
- Crown Land Securement Partner Program
- West Coast Conservation Land Management Program
- South Coast Conservation Land Management Program
- South Okanagan-Similkameen Conservation Program
- Kootenay Conservation Program
- Joint Ventures under the North American Waterfowl Management Plan
Conservation lands staff are also involved in more specialized habitat compensation initiatives designed to help offset the impacts of major development projects, such as the Fish and Wildlife Compensation Program with BC Hydro and Fisheries and Oceans Canada.
The primary management focus for conservation lands is conservation and management of fish and wildlife habitat. Other specific uses or activities may sometimes be accommodated on conservation lands if they are compatible with the conservation objectives for a site or represent pre-existing rights such as a utility right of way. A management planning document is typically developed for individual administered sites or for groups of proximate sites in consultation with First Nations, partners, stakeholders, and the public. Written consent from the Ministry’s appropriate Regional Manager under the Wildlife Act is generally required for any new use of land or resources in a conservation land. Uses or activities may also be constrained by related legal agreements or commitments such as leases, covenants, management agreements or government approved strategic plans.