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TDC101 TDC Conservation Areas

Selection Criteria

All TDC programs lay out where the community would like to promote conservation of certain landscape values, and – in the context of a TDC program – where conservation landowners are eligible to hold and sell credits. Many programs choose their TDC Conservation Areas based on a set of criteria, but each community uses criteria
that reflect their community-specific conservation goals. For example, an environmental conservation program may prescribe that any parcel with certain ecological features or functions (riparian area, wildlife movement corridor, wetland, woodlot, etc.) is eligible. Landowners feeling their parcel meets the criteria can come forward and apply to participate in the program.

Having said that, there are some guidelines or similar questions that each program must consider in choosing these criteria:

The Goal – The designation of TDC Conservation Areas is an animation of the program goal. For example, if the program goal is to conserve agricultural land, the designation of the TDC Conservation Areas answers the questions, ‘What type of agricultural land?’, ‘Where is this land?’, ‘What pressures are being addressed?’, and ‘Who is affected?’

Nature of the Landscape – The landscape itself will obviously dictate much about the designation of TDC Conservation Areas. A goal of ‘Conserve X Acres of Land Type A’ may be unrealistic if there is not that many acres of that land type available for conservation. Desirable ecological functions may be difficult to measure and make it unclear whether a given area provides that type of conservation.

Existing Zoning or Planning Transfer of Development Credits programs do not replace the existing zoning or planning framework; TDCs  are a complementary tool, generally considered as an ‘overlay’ to existing zoning. For this reason, TDC Conservation Areas should dovetail as much as possible with existing designations.

Pressure for ConversionTDC programs are one tool for responding to a pressure for change in land use that is adversely affecting existing valued landscapes. Thus in designating TDC Conservation Areas, municipalities should consider the degree to which that pressure exists in proposed areas. If the pressure is too great, the timelines of this voluntary tool may not be adequate to effectively respond; if the pressure is only minimal, there may be no perceived urgency for TDC Conservation Area landowners to participate.

Time frame – Several American TDR programs have laid out 25 year, 30 year or longer time frames by which they wish to achieve conservation of a certain number of acres. Others have been concerned with quickly motivating numerous transactions to address imminent issues or show quick success. These factors affect the scale and placement of TDC Conservation Areas.

Parcel Size – The conservation goals of a TDC program often require minimum parcel sizes to reduce fragmentation or to promote landscape functions that exist at a large scale. In these cases, TDC Conservation Area designation will need to establish thresholds related to parcel size.

Infrastructure – Although more often a consideration in the placement of TDC Development Areas, this is a consideration for TDC Sending Areas, as well. Parcels that are a good match for the conservation goals may be a better match for development due to the proximity to existing development. As well, for agricultural land conservation, there will need to be access to agricultural services if the agr-businesses using the land are expected to stay viable.

Bonus criteria – In more complex programs, credit allocation may be based on the degree to which a parcel matches the criteria (e.g., the more items on the list that the parcel matches, the more credits per acre are provided).


Miistakis Reports

Government of Alberta


Web Resources

Support Organizations and Consultants

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Also, check out our full list of TDC Resources.