Interested In Benefiting Wildlife on Your Land While Reducing Property Taxes?

The Wildlife Conservation Land Program May Be a Good Fit For You!

Author: NCWRC blogger/Tuesday, May 30, 2023/Categories: Blog, Conservation, Wildlife Management

Interested In Benefiting Wildlife on Your Land While Reducing Property Taxes?

The Wildlife Conservation Land Program (WCLP), authorized by state legislation in 2008, designated “Wildlife Conservation Land” as a special class of property that must be assessed at a reduced valuation.  In short, this program offers a property tax deferment for tracts of land which are actively managed primarily for wildlife habitat enhancement.

While similar to the Present Use Value Program (PUV), which provides a property tax deferment for privately-owned land managed for agriculture, horticulture or forestry production, the WCLP is a completely different program with several unique provisions to ensure wildlife habitat is addressed.   

The initial 2008 legislation targeted properties where wildlife species designated as endangered, threatened, or special concern by the N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission (NCWRC) lived. In addition, parcels managed to conserve at least one of six priority wildlife habitat types identified in the State’s Wildlife Action Plan were also eligible for the WCLP.  While the original legislation was a great step in the right direction it left many tracts ineligible, especially in the rapidly developing Piedmont and Coastal Plain regions of the state.  

In June of 2018 House Bill 320, which revised the WCLP General Statute, was signed into law, creating a third type of land that qualified for the program: “Wildlife Reserve Land.” According to the updated legislation, land that qualifies for the WCLP under this newest criterion is “actively and regularly used as a reserve for hunting, fishing, shooting, wildlife observation, or wildlife activities; upon which wildlife management activities are conducted to ensure the propagation of a sustaining breeding, migrating, or wintering population of indigenous wild animals.”  To qualify as Wildlife Reserve Land, active management practices must be implemented on the property.

Currently the three qualifying criteria for the WCLP are:
Criterion 1 - Threatened, Endangered, or Special Concern Species
Criterion 2 - Priority Habitats
Criterion 3 - Wildlife Reserve Land  

The following items should be carefully considered as you decide if WCLP is compatible with the goals and objectives you have for your property:        

 

  • A Wildlife Habitat Conservation Agreement (WHCA) with the NCWRC is required to enroll in the WCLP. 
  • The minimum acreage to qualify for the WCLP enrollment is 20 acres of contiguous qualifying habitat, not just 20 acres of land. 
  • The land must be owned by an individual, a family business entity, family trust, or a combination of one or more of these three entities as tenants in common.   
  • A given acre of land cannot be enrolled in both the WCLP and PUV.  Land managed primarily for the production of food or fiber does not qualify for the WCLP.   
  • In most instances, the property must have been owned by the applicant for at least 4 years.  There are exemptions for new owners of property previously enrolled in the WCLP, parcels which hold the applicant’s primary residence, and land which has been transferred between family members.
  • To qualify for the WCLP under “Criterion 1”, one or more protected wildlife species must live on the land and the landowner must agree to manage the property to safeguard the species.
  • To qualify for the WCLP under “Criterion 2”, the landowner must conserve one or more qualifying priority habitat types: Longleaf Pine Forest, Early Successional Habitat, Small Wetland Community, Stream and Riparian Zone, Rock Outcrop, and Bat Cave.
  • To meet the WCLP requirements for “Criterion 3”, the property must be used for hunting, fishing, shooting, wildlife observation, or other wildlife activities.  In addition, landowner must agree to follow a WHCA that includes at least three of the seven qualifying management activities:  Supplemental Food, Supplemental Water, Supplemental Shelter, Predator Control, Habitat Control, Erosion Control and Census of Animal Populations.
  • Failure to follow the WHCA can result in being deemed out of compliance with the WCLP.  This violation will result in the local tax office levying a penalty based on the tax deferment for the previous three years and an interest penalty.  

    Additional details concerning the WCLP can be found at ncwildlife.org/WCLP.
 
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