Artist Arthur Vickers

Hard-pressed land conservancy covets new member cash

The Land Conservancy launched an ambitious plan Thursday to try dig itself out of financial woes.

In 18 months, the organization hopes to sign up 30,000 members in order to raise $10 million. Without the money, TLC would continue living “hand to mouth” as it has for some time now, executive director Bill Turner said.

“I wouldn’t say we are in financial trouble, but it’s up to the people of B.C. to decide whether they want us to keep doing what we do,” Turner said.

TLC is a land trust, with most money coming from membership, that protects significant lands and properties across the province.

This latest campaign is called Be the Change, borrowed from the Gandhi mantra. TLC hopes to raise the money to protect land on its current wishlist, including the Clearwater wetlands and wildlife corridor in central B.C., Gowlland Point Regional Park on Pender Island and Sansum Point in the Cowichan Valley. TLC also has its eyes on the Sooke Hills, Jordan River and Sandcut beach.

TLC already protects areas such as the Sooke Potholes and Madrona Farm in Saanich.

But if the organization wants to continue purchasing land across the province, TLC’s pockets will need to be better stuffed, Turner said. He attributed the trust’s meagre finances to a tough economy that’s kept donors from giving as much as in the past, and limited government grants.

“We’ve had enough of living hand to mouth,” he said. “Let’s see what kind of support is in the community and there seems to be a lot of it.”

Earlier this spring, TLC asked its 40 or so staff to defer part of their paycheques so the organization wouldn’t default on mortgage payments. That saved about $30,000.

Turner said those employees have not yet been paid back. Some have chosen to stop the deferments, but others have continued on.

In September 2010, the TLC’s board quit, citing disagreements over the trust’s financial management.

Layoffs aren’t out of the question, Turner added.

“We might have to,” he said. “We certainly have to keep things to the bare bones right now.”

Still, Turner has no concerns the campaign won’t achieve its goals.

“I think it (will be) really easy,” he said. “There is huge support for this campaign.”

TLC, which has been in existence for 14 years, currently has 8,700 members.

People can become TLC members by giving monthly donations of any amount, or by giving an annual donation of $35. Members get free access to TLC-run visitor sites.

For more information or to donate, go to conservancy.bc.ca.

ecardone@vicnews.com

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