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Land Swaps


What is it?

A Land Swap is when a municipality trades a property it owns for a privately-owned property or Crown land, usually without any sort of cash compensation. Land Swaps benefit both parties. To maintain or enhance the natural infrastructure system, a municipality can acquire a piece of land that helps the municipality reach an ecological goal (e.g., ecological connectivity), for a piece of land that is less suited to reaching that goal, but which represents significant value to another party. Land Swaps can be between a municipality and a provincial agency, a federal agency, a private owner, or a corporation.

How can municipalities use it?

To help maintain the natural infrastructure system, a municipality can acquire land through a Land Swap. The Municipal Development Plan, natural area management plan, open space plan, biodiversity plan, among other plans and policies, can identify areas that maintain or enhance natural infrastructure to prioritize for acquisition, as well as identify areas that the municipality may be willing to swap.

What are the advantages?

The many advantages of Land Swaps include:

  • Ability to acquire land that contains valued features such as wetlands, native vegetation, and habitat, which maintain or enhance the natural infrastructure system

  • The land acquired can increase recreational or cultural opportunities

  • Offers a tool to acquire land when funds are not available for land acquisition

  • Does not preclude growth, but directs it to a more desirable location

What should you watch out for?

No tool is a silver bullet. There are issues for municipalities to watch out for with Land Swaps, including:

  • The owner of a desired parcel may be unwilling to swap

  • Though talked about a lot, there are very few examples of land being swapped for natural infrastructure purposes

  • It can be difficult to balance the ‘value’ each parties attaches to the parcels being swapped

  • While identifying non-municipal lands with natural infrastructure value can be easy, it can be difficult identifying land the municipality is willing to give up

How can it help maintain natural infrastructure?

A Land Swap helps to maintain the natural infrastructure system by allowing a municipality to protect areas with natural infrastructure assets from development. Through assets that connect, maintain, or enhance the natural infrastructure system, a municipality is investing in ensuring functions and benefits are sustained.


Alberta Environment and Parks Land Exchange – The Land exchange – net benefit document released in 2016 describes that only land exchange proposals that result in a net benefit to the province will be considered.

Cootes to Escarpment Park System: Land Securement Strategy – Several land securement tools are described for their contribution to protection of the important natural region known as ‘Cootes to Escarpment’ in southern Ontario. Land exchanges (swaps) are included in this document.

City of Hamilton Proposed Natural Areas Acquisition Fund Strategy –  The general purpose of this Natural Areas Acquisition Fund Strategy is to outline the requirements for the implementation of the Natural Areas Acquisition Fund. However, it provides details on the suite of securement tools available, and includes information on land exchanges (swaps).

Halton Region Greenlands Securement Strategy – Developed by the Regional Municipality of Halton, this strategy is intended to bring together land securement partners, funding partners and others within the Region to work towards the goal of securing further greenlands. This document includes information on land exchanges (swaps).

Ottawa Greenspace Master Plan: Strategies for Ottawa’s Urban Greenspaces - The purpose of this document is to express Council’s vision for greenspace in the urban area and set policies for how this vision can be pursued, and it includes information on land exchanges (swaps).

Did we miss something?

If you know of a resource that should be on this list - or your municipality has a sample or case that should be here, please let us know!

Thanks for helping us out!

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