The Land Conservancy - Current Issues

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The Land Conservancy - Current Issues

Post  Admin on Wed May 06, 2009 6:42 am

Since a good portion of rides that some of us are fond of in the South Okanagan / Oliver region are related to land managed by The Land Conservancy, those of you who ride these areas might be interested to attend the meeting detailed below;

Dear Joan and John,

Over the last few weeks, Members of TLC have understandably raised a number of questions regarding recent changes. Media reports and comments by concerned people have also created a certain amount of anxiety about what is happening at TLC.

Below are answers to some of the most commonly raised questions. The Board of Directors of TLC has also set Information Sessions in Nanaimo, Victoria, Vancouver and Penticton to meet with Members and discuss any questions you may have. We look forward to meeting with you.

Information Sessions where Members can discuss matters directly with the Board:
Nanaimo - Tuesday May 19 at 7 pm
Beban Park Rec Centre, Room 21 - 2300 Bowen Rd
Victoria - Wednesday May 20 at 7 pm
White Eagle Hall, 90 Dock St
Vancouver - Thursday May 21 at 7 pm
Unitarian Church, 949 West 49th Ave (at Oak St)
Penticton - Saturday May 23 at 3 pm
Enowkin Centre, Lot 45 Green Mountain Rd

Sincerely,
Brent Nichols
Chair, Board of Directors, TLC


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1. What is the state of TLCs finances?
The April 30, 2008 audit by Grant Thornton states in the Notes to the Consolidated Financial Statements that, Even though the Society has been successful in raising funds over its eleven years of operation and has a consistent record of growing its membership base year over year, there can be no assurances that additional funding will be available in the future.

In the event that sufficient additional funding is not obtained, there is doubt about the Societys ability to continue as a going concern. (Page 6, emphasis added)
As of April 30, 2008, TLC had:
about $7.23 Million debt in mortgages, loans (demand and term) and line of credit
about $750,000 in annual principal and interest costs to manage the debt
land, covenants and buildings valued at around $35 Million, which takes considerable staff time and money to look after. Less than a year after last years audit, TLC was facing enormous cash flow issues. TLC trade payables amounted to hundreds of thousands of dollars, payroll and expenses were considerably delayed, property taxes had not been fully discharged, and the Line of Credit of $300K was fully used. While a recent legacy gift substantially reduced the immediate financial pressure, it did not enable TLC to do more than gain a few weeks of breathing space.

TLCs past success protecting special places cannot guarantee continued success. TLC must ensure the three pillars of sustainability - environment, social and economic - work together in harmony and are strong. TLCs record of protection and conservation is enviable. But TLC also has considerable financial obligations that must be honoured to those who work to advance TLCs mission. TLC must meet payroll; TLC must pay what it owes to its suppliers and contractors and to those land holders to whom commitments have been made. These are things that the Board takes extremely seriously; any responsible Board must monitor and take corrective action as necessary.

2. Why is Bill Turner not at TLC?
Privacy laws limit what TLC can say publically about Bill Turners employment relationship with TLC. In general, Bill was advised that his contract with TLC would not be renewed and that he would not continue in the capacity of Executive Director as this role was being split in two: Chief Operating Officer and Director Acquisitions. He was offered a new position in TLC that Directors believed would best use his strengths - namely, donor relations, property acquisition and serving as an ambassador to advance TLC and the national land trust movement. All Directors agree that he deserves rich praise for his accomplishments. We are hoping, in the immediate term, to engage in facilitated discussions with Bill and that he chooses to continue to help us grow the wonderful organization that he and four others co-founded. The position of Chief Operating Officer is an interim appointment, pending a formal hiring process, anticipated within the next 12 months.

3. Why was the former Executive Position divided into two positions?
The Board made the difficult decision that a new focus in management was urgently required, thus splitting of the ED job into two positions. Since its inception over a decade ago, TLC has become more complex - it now plays a role in some 300 properties and conservation projects; management of these properties has been a growing fiscal challenge. The present economic climate exacerbated this risk; TLC is not immune from the challenges posed by this ongoing economic crisis. The views between the Board and the former Executive Director were simply not aligned; there were fundamental differences as to the steps that TLC had to take to address the financial situation of TLC.

4. The Board has been called risk averse. Land conservation and protection often require aggressive and creative approaches. How does the Board reconcile this tension?
The Board is committed to TLCs mission of protecting a broad range of special places. If land is under threat and TLC can play a role in protecting it, the Board will leave no stone unturned in seeking that protection. The Board will continue to work to ensure that funds are secured before acquisitions are made. The Board will be extremely mindful that every additional acquisition becomes a responsibility to manage in an ever increasing portfolio of properties. Every additional acquisition takes staff time and increasing levels of ongoing revenue.

The Board is also committed to stewarding the many properties that are already under its protection. There are several projects that need completion: restoration of Ross Bay Villa and Craigflower; ongoing fundraising campaign at Madrona Farm; retiring the mortgage on Abkhazi Gardens; Hardy Mountain Doukobor Village - these are just a few examples of what we need to steward. Strong community support will be needed to see these projects to fruition.

We do not think it is risk-averse for Directors to tackle head on the financial challenges outlined above. Over the last years, TLC has made considerable investment in the future - TLC now needs to get its house in order to truly be BCs National Trust.

5. Will lands that are currently protected by TLC be sold?
No. The purpose of TLC is to protect natural communities, landscape features and priceless heritage assets. This is accomplished by acquiring protective control of these lands and sites through ownership, long-term leases or conservation covenants.
It is estimated that the total value of the land, covenants, and heritage sites that TLC owns or manages is about $35Million. Of course, this figure does not reflect the ecological value, recreational value or cultural values that such lands embody. In tough financial times, some have suggested that a way to get out of difficult situation would be to sell or lease these special places. The Board considered this and concluded that no lands should, could or would be sold.

Let us be clear: the special places under TLCs direct management and stewardship are not for sale. Lands that are protected under TLCs mantle will remain protected. There is one exception, however, of which Members ought to be aware. As part of our successful campaign to protect a recreation site near Squamish, a gravel pit was acquired. It has long been anticipated that when the economic conditions improve and other constraints are removed, this gravel pit will be sold. That is the only exception to this commitment that we give to Members and it was one that was planned as part of the original acquisition strategy.

6. Why did all the lawyers who were on the TLC Board of Directors leave the Board?
Since the September AGM, four Directors have resigned for a variety of personal and other reasons. In addition in March 2009, four lawyers on the TLC Board had to resign because the lawyers felt, and had advice from the Law Society to this effect, that aspects of TLCs financial position put them into conflict with their ethical obligations under the Lawyers Professional Conduct Handbook. We are now taking steps to ensure that this conflict ceases so that lawyers are able to serve on the TLC Board.

7. Will any meetings be held where Members can discuss these matters?
Yes. The Board is committed to regular communications with its Members - Members have the right to know about what is going on. The challenge the Board faces is communicating with a membership that is located all across the province and with a considerable body of Members who do not have easy access to electronic communications.
Therefore, we have set up Information Meetings where Members can discuss matters directly with the Board:
Nanaimo - Tuesday May 19 at 7 pm
Beban Park Rec Centre, Room 21 - 2300 Bowen Rd
Victoria - Wednesday May 20 at 7 pm
White Eagle Hall, 90 Dock St
Vancouver - Thursday May 21 at 7 pm
Unitarian Church, 949 West 49th Ave (at Oak St)
Penticton - Saturday May 23 at 3 pm
Enowkin Centre, Lot 45 Green Mountain Rd
In addition, the TLC AGM, currently scheduled for September 26, 2009, is a good opportunity to share information and become more familiar with TLC operations and directions. It is also the time at which elections are held for the Board of Directors. The TLC Bylaws allow for no less than 3 or more than 18 Directors.

8. What does it mean to be a TLC Director?
Directors are elected by the Members. The Board of Directors serve on behalf of the Members, to make decisions on behalf of the Members. Directors must act in good faith, to the best of their abilities, with the best interests of the society at hand, within the constitution and bylaws of the organization, and within the law. A Director must act in the face of real and anticipated problems, and sometimes make hard decisions. While sometimes thankless, this responsibility is absolutely necessary if our conservation and protection organizations are to survive and do the job expected of them. These are volunteer roles.
The obligations, including financial, resting on the shoulders of a Director are immense. We have a legal and moral obligation to shoulder our responsibilities as fiduciaries for the Members.

The present Directors come from all parts of BC - Victoria, Invermere, Campbell River, Nanaimo, and the Lower Mainland. Directors not only give of their time and expertise, they have also, like many other Members, made personal loans and other significant financial contributions to TLC and do not receive an honorarium. The Board is not new as some have suggested. In fact, the tenure of the current Directors ranges from 2 to 9 years.

9. What kind of future does the Board see for TLC?
The Board believes that it can navigate a course through these challenges. To do so, however, it needs the understanding and support of Members. The Board believes that effective governance is the key to organizational success. Taking the easy path by avoiding problems is the most common reason for organizational failure. This is something this Board is not prepared to do. As difficult as it has been, the Board fervently believes that it has acted in the best interests of TLC and its Members, even when it might have been easier to avoid the tough decisions.

The Board also believes that TLC will have a very bright future, if necessary action is taken. It is committed to securing this future for TLC. It is committed to stewarding the natural conservation lands, agricultural lands and heritage sites. It is committed to growing the mission of TLC. The Board hopes that this future includes Bill Turner. It hopes that an outcome can be reached that is agreeable to all parties that is to the benefit of everyone and to the benefit of TLC.

10. What can Members do?
Members can help shape the future of TLC. Please continue to support TLC with your ideas, your dollars, and your hearts. Help TLC do what it does best - protect Special Places. We are appealing to you to volunteer your time and expertise, in any way that you can, to help grow the mission and mandate of TLC. We are appealing to you to financially support TLC - we are in urgent need of your financial help during these economically turbulent times.

heritage • nature • agriculture
Board of Directors: Brent Nichols (chair) • Peta Alexander • Judith Brand • Colin Gabelmann • Richard Hankin (vice-chair) • Lindsay Jones • Karin Lengger • David Zehnder
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