N.S. to allow easements to keep land in farming

Community groups will now be able to pay farmers or other landowners in Nova Scotia to keep a given piece of land in agricultural or other "traditional" uses.

The province on Thursday proposed new legislation broadening the use of easements, a tool already enshrined in the province’s Conservation Easements Act to protect land with particular ecological or heritage value.

The new Community Easements Act proposed Thursday would also allow a group to use an easement to keep land in specific "traditional and economic uses," even if the land is sold.

A landowner would then get financial compensation from the group for agreeing to the easement, the province said.

Such easements could then be used to keep land in agricultural use, or to retain "community access" to the land, or to preserve certain views, "working forests," wetlands, woodlots, archaeological sites or lands of "cultural importance."

"This act helps preserve access to private lands being used by the community, which is a commitment we made to Nova Scotians," provincial Natural Resources Minister Charlie Parker said in a release. "Land access is very important to people across the province, especially those in rural areas."

The proposed legislation would allow a community easement to run for a "stated period" or in perpetuity. It also makes clear that a group holding an easement and using or occupying the land covered by the easement will not have any "possessory or prescriptive title" to the property.

The legislation would also make clear that a landowner won’t be held liable for any breaches of the easement that take place after he or she no longer owns the land.

If a body holding an easement on given land ceases to exist, the province could name another group to hold the easement. Failing that, the province could then opt to either terminate the easement or hold the easement itself.

The province on Thursday also proposed to amend its Conservation Easements Act to clarify that conservation easements, specifically, are "to protect biodiversity and natural processes."

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