An evaluation of the Manitoba Environmental Tax Credit program

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Van de Velde, Christine M.
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In 1999, a tax credit program offering a $1/acre incentive was provided by Ducks Unlimited and Canada's Prairie Farm Rehabilitation Administration to landowners undertaking conservation practices in agro-Manitoba. The program was offered as a pilot in the two rural municipalities of Strathcona and Mountain North. The intent of the program is to influence the development of policies aimed at making agriculture sustainable over the long-term. This study evaluated the program based on landowner feedback through mail-out questionnaires and interviews with the municipal reeve and administrator of both municipalities. Sixty-one thousand acres were eligible for the credit, representing 28% of the total privately-owned land base, with an average saving per landowner of $262. Landowners agreed that $1/acre was not adequate compensation for carrying out conservation practices however, many landowners participated or will participate in the program next year. Monetary compensation was cited as an important component of conservation programs, although landowners may be willing to accept less compensation in exchange for greater land use flexibility. The program will influence landowners to maintain grasslands and plant permanent forages on marginal cropland. Program participants agreed that the program would cause them to retain wetlands. The program raised participants awareness of the importance of conservation practices and their concern for the well-being of the environment. A tax credit of $1/acre appears to act more as recognition and an incentive for farmers to continue using conservation practices. There was a positive reaction and strong support from landowners and participating municipal staff for incorporating conservation goals into the property tax system.