When a conservation easement is placed on property in Alberta, the following general registration steps must be followed:
- Notice of intent to register a conservation easement.
- File the conservation easement agreement
- Filing a modifying document where conservation easement
b. Terminated; or
Notice of intent to register a conservation easement
Notice must be given to a number of persons at least 60 days before the conservation easement agreement is filed for registration against the property’s land title. Persons who must be notified are:
- the relevant municipal authority for the property’s location, which is:
- the municipal council for most municipalities in Alberta;
- the Metis settlement council for Metis settlements;
- the Minister responsible for the Municipal Government Act for improvement districts;
- the Special Areas Board for special areas (which are a specific kind of municipality dealt with under the Special Areas Act);
- the Minister of Infrastructure; and
- the Minister of Transportation.
The notice must be in the specific form from the Conservation Easement Registration Regulation and include:
- information about the qualified organization and the landowner;
- property information (location; size; legal description or address); and
- information about the conservation easement (purpose; summary of agreement terms re: land use).
It must be signed by a representative of the qualified organization. The legislation does not specify who is responsible for sending the notices, though the qualified organization usually undertakes this task on behalf of the parties.
Filing the conservation easement against title
When at least 60 days have passed since the pre-registration notice or the land trusts have received notice of the 60 days being waived has been given, the conservation easement agreement can be filed with the Land Titles Office or Metis Settlements Land Registry for registration against title. The Conservation Easement Registration Regulation requires that a statutory declaration made by the qualified organization, in the specific format set out in the regulation, must be filed with the conservation easement agreement. The statutory declaration must be declared before and signed by a Commissioner for Oaths. In it, an officer of the qualified organization confirms that:
- the qualified organization meets all the requirements of a qualified organization under the Alberta Land Stewardship Act;
- the conservation easement being registered is for one or more of the purposes provided under the Act; and
- the required pre-registration notice has been given.
If these documents are acceptable to the Land Titles Office or Metis Settlements Land Registry, the conservation easement will be registered against the land title of the property and will then run with the land, binding future owners. The Registrar of Titles or Registrar of the Metis Settlements Land Registry can refuse to register the conservation easement against title if the boundaries of the conservation easement are not satisfactorily described. To avoid this situation, parties should take care when developing the conservation easement agreement to ensure accurate description. In particular, if the conservation easement is being applied to only a portion of the land, a legal survey of the property may be used to support accurate description.
Changing the registration against title
After a conservation easement has been registered against the property’s land title, subsequent changes to the conservation easement agreement must also be registered with the Land Titles Office to have binding effect. Where a conservation easement is modified or terminated, the modifying or terminating document must be registered by:
- the landowner or qualified organization, where the change has been made by agreement of the parties or court order; or
- the Minister responsible for the Alberta Land Stewardship Act, where the change has been made by Ministerial order under the Act.
If a conservation easement expires, either the landowner or qualified organization must provide notice to the Land Titles Office to have registration of the conservation easement discharged from the land title.
A conservation easement’s significance
A conservation easement’s significance lies in its ability to bind future landowners to the use restrictions it establishes. To give the conservation easement legal effect and enable its use and enforcement now and in the future, the Alberta Land Stewardship Act requires its registration against the property’s land title. The Conservation Easement Registration Regulation sets out additional registration requirements.
For most land in Alberta, registration against the title will take place under the Land Titles Act through the Land Titles Office. However, for Metis settlement land there is a separate registry system. Conservation easements against those lands will take place under the requirements of the Metis Settlements Act and any General Council Policy through the Metis Settlements Land Registry.