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C. Environmental Due Diligence

  • For every land and conservation agreement transaction, conduct or obtain a preliminary environmental investigation to identify whether there are any conditions that pose environmental risks.
  • If evidence of environmental risks is found, conduct or obtain a more thorough investigation, such as a Phase 1 assessment, and take steps to address any significant concerns.


Hazardous and toxic substances may pose serious environmental threats if improperly stored or managed. Contamination from these substances can also pose serious economic threats if it occurs on land trust property. Legislation on this topic varies between provinces, however, a land trust that owns or was a previous owner of a property contaminated by hazardous or toxic materials may be held liable for all costs associated with the contamination, including the cost of cleaning up the site. It may not matter who initially caused the problem or if the property was donated to the land trust. Preventing the acquisition of contaminated property is clearly preferable to discovering a problem later. A land trust should complete a Phase I Environmental Survey for every property it considers acquiring, whether by purchase or donation. Many land trusts also conduct preliminary evaluations for conservation agreement acquisitions, although the law’s applicability to conservation agreement holders is unclear. This is a rapidly changing area, and there is no single answer appropriate to the question of what constitutes an adequate environmental assessment or due diligence. Each land trust should establish and follow procedures for investigating contamination on potential projects in consultation with a knowledgeable lawyer.