When is it better to come in second?

When is it better to come in second? For insurance, it's when you want to keep your premiums low. That's why Terrafirma is backup insurance. If you have other insurance (such as general liability insurance or title insurance) that covers a particular claim, Terrafirma will wait until you've exhausted that coverage before it starts to cover the claim.  And Terrafirma may later let other insurance (such as D&O insurance for board members) cover counterclaims or crossclaims.  By letting other insurers take first place in this situation, Terrafirma can offer you more coverage without charging an arm and a leg.  You can read more about this in paragraph 3.9 in your Terrafirma policy in the exclusions section. The exclusions are also on the website here.

We’re here to help! If you have any questions about exclusions or anything else, please let us know. You can email us directly or call 202-800-2219 for Lorri or 802-262-6051 for Leslie.

October 30th, 2014

Make the rules work in your favor

When you need an expert report for a lawsuit, you may be better off getting your outside attorney to request it for you.  Because lawyers don’t have to reveal their notes and correspondence in court where the land trust is seeking their legal advice, your lawyer’s discussions with the expert (and, depending on your state’s rules, even the report itself) can be protected from the other side.  Being able to keep your disagreements with your experts confidential can really help your case.  For more information, check out this practical pointer on attorney-client privilege.

We’re here to help! If you have any questions about attorney-client privilege or anything else, please let us know. You can email us directly or call 202-800-2219 for Lorri or 802-262-6051 for Leslie.


Ask questions, get answers

One of the easiest ways to find out about potential title issues is to just ask.  When you are monitoring, ask the landowner if they plan on giving a deed to anybody for any reason.  Even well-intentioned landowners may create issues by giving rights to children or spouses that conflict with the easement restrictions.  Asking if the landowner plans on adjusting the land boundaries can help resolve title issues before any great harm arises.

We’re here to help! If you have any questions about questions for monitors or anything else, please let us know. You can email us directly or call 202-800-2219 for Lorri or 802-262-6051 for Leslie.

August 26th, 2014

Survey Your Domain

When your land trust accepts an easement, it obtains a real estate interest in the easement under most state enabling acts. If you have a boundary disagreement with a neighbor to either fee land or easement land, you have the right to get a boundary survey.  If you delay boundary surveys, it may be too late to address serious continuous encroachments as trespassers may gain rights over time.  So get a boundary survey promptly to ensure that you identify potential legal disputes in the early stages when crafting a solution is relatively simple.

We’re here to help! If you have any questions about boundary surveys or anything else, please let us know. You can email us directly or call 202-800-2219 for Lorri or 802-262-6051 for Leslie.

 


Risk tips for a safe fun summer event

Public access to conservation land is not fun when people get hurt.  If you plan to invite the public on your land this summer, be sure to consider risk management strategies to make the most of the event.  You can avoid many safety issues by taking simple precautions when organizing recreational events.

  1. Water safety- When organizing any events in or near water, be sure to provide adequate supervision and tell participants not to drink untreated water or get it in their mouths.
  2. Food safety- When organizing events where you’ll be providing food, make sure those serving food take precautions to prevent food-borne illnesses.
  3. Animal safety- Be sure to inform participants of any animals that may be dangerous and teach them ways to avoid them.
  4. Plant safety- Be sure to inform participants of any plants that may cause allergic reactions and help them avoid these plants.
  5. Bug bites- Bug bites can spread disease and allergic reactions.  Make sure participants are aware of the risks and take any necessary precautions.
  6. Emergency communications- Arrange for a way to communicate with emergency services if the need arises.  Cell phones, satellite phones, and personal locator beacons are all possibilities to consider depending on your event. Or have the volunteer EMT or ambulance on standby if you are at an especially remote rugged location or holding a strenuous event.
  7. Tour safety – Have at least two trained tour leaders if you have an organized group event; have more safety committee members at larger events to prevent tragedies and lesser accidents.

We’re here to help! If you have any questions about risk management at special events or anything else, please let us know. You can email us directly or call 202-800-2219 for Lorri or 802-262-6051 for Leslie.


2013 Year in Review

We’re proud of the successes of Terrafirma members, who together insured 6,764,772 acres this year. Terrafirma has handled 43 conservation defense liability insurance claims so far. All operations are within expectations. To learn more, read the 2013 annual report and 2013 audited financials and Form 990 available on the Terrafirma website financials page.  

We’re here to help! If you have any questions about Terrafirma’s annual report, financial reports or anything else, please let us know. You can email us directly or call 202-800-2219 for Lorri or 802-262-6051 for Leslie.


Let people know you have Terrafirma

Participating in Terrafirma shows your land trust’s commitment to long-term defense of the land it owns or helped conserve. It shows that you understand how pooling resources with hundreds of other conservation organizations to share risk and resources helps everyone uphold conservation permanently. Let your landowners know that your land trust is a member owner of Terrafirma and how that helps to preserve their conservation vision. Here’s a sample letter to show you one way that another land trust shared the good news.  

We’re here to help! If you have any questions about filing claims or anything else, please let us know. You can email us directly or call 202-800-2219 for Lorri or 802-262-6051 for Leslie.


Download Your 2014 Terrafirma Policy

You can download your land trust’s 2014 Terrafirma policy now by logging into your account here on the Terrafirma website. To download a PDF copy of your policy, simply log in to the website and click on the large green button giving you the option to “Download Policy”. 

Thank you for your patience as Terrafirma worked through underwriting and billing issues on the 2014 applications. Your 2014 Terrafirma coverage is effective as of midnight March 1, 2014.

If you have any questions or experience any difficulties, please email us directly or call Lorri at 202-800-2219. We are here to help!


Find Challenges Challenging to Define?

Make plans now to track challenges that you may need to report on your Terrafirma membership confirmation next year. Remember, you do not need to report challenges if there is no damage to the property, nominal volunteer or staff time was needed to address the challenge, and you incurred no out of pocket expenses. To help you keep track of the different types of challenges, please see the definitions below.

 

Challenge

Definition

Violation

includes prohibited structures and uses, excessive recreational activity (such as all-terrain vehicles), surface alteration, timber harvest, and dumping, violation of a management plan and anything else that explicitly violates the stated terms of a conservation easement

Trespass

includes actions by third parties (neighbors, developers, government and so forth) such as vegetation removal, structural encroachment, fences, topography change and so forth.

Litigation Notice

when you receive written notice that a lawsuit has been filed against the land trust

Verbal or Other Threat of Violation or Trespass

includes threats to violate the conservation easement or trespass on fee land or conservation easement

Disregard of Easement Obligation

this is a catch all section for when a legal challenge does not fit into any other category for example transfer of water rights on paper to a holding company that technically disregards the no severance provision of the conservation easement but functionally retains the water rights in the same ownership

Mediation or Arbitration Notice

when you receive written notice of mediation or arbitration action

Adverse Claim of Legal Right

including adverse possession, contest by heir, boundary challenge, etc.

 

We’re here to help! If you have any questions about filing claims or anything else, please let us know. Email us at help@terrafirma.org or call 202-800-2219 for Lorri or 802-262-6051 for Leslie.


Report Violations or Trepass on Insured Property

Have you seen any violations or trespass on your insured property this year? Remember to notify Terrafirma immediately when you first discover any problem that might become a claim under your Terrafirma 2013 policy (and tell your other insurers too just in case). Timing counts, so if you have something now file a claim by March 1, 2014. We will help you sort out the details and are always available to assist you. It's easy: go to the Terrafirma website, login and click on “Submit a Claim.”

We’re here to help! If you have any questions about filing claims or anything else, please let us know. You can reply to this email, email us directly or call 202-800-2219 for Lorri or 802-262-6051 for Leslie.


Plan Ahead to Manage Risk

What do a healthy risk management program and an informed and involved board have in common? They are both integral to the success of risk management because they determine the direction of the organization. If your board and senior leadership work together to plan for contingencies ahead of time – when heads are cool and time is on your side – you can avoid crises that could put you out of business.  

Board members can also log on FREE to the Nonprofit Risk Management Center as affiliates of the Land Trust Alliance. See directions »

We’re here to help! If you have any questions about updating your policy, baselines or anything else, please let us know. You can reply to this email, email us directly or call 202-800-2219 for Lorri or 802-262-6051 for Leslie.


Re-enroll for 2014 Coverage

Your current Terrafirma coverage ends March 1, 2014. Please re-enroll on the Terrafirma website by updating your current policy information stored on the website.

The re-enrollment period begins December 1, 2013 and ends February 3, 2014.

It is easy as 1-2-3! 

  1. Add any new parcels and remove any assigned parcels
  2. Re-confirm your eligibility
  3. Click the “submit” button and mail your check

Once you re-enroll, the 2014 coverage period continues uninterrupted from the original policy date. Remember that everything is online; Terrafirma does not send paper invoices, notices or applications.

We know times are still tough and money is always tight. 

If your board is thinking about not re-enrolling, here are a few things to consider:  

You will lose the registration payment you have already paid. If you decide to re-enroll later, you’ll have to pay a higher registration fee (currently between $375 and $4,000). View the registration fee schedule »

Your coverage will end on March 1, 2014 and – even if you re-enroll a year later – you will have a coverage gap as a new policy will only be effective as of the reenrollment date. That essentially means it will only cover claims based on problems that first come to light after that date.

You’ll have to pay a 50% co-payment for any claims during the first year after your coverage re-starts.

Your reserves will be at higher risk without the Terrafirma safety net. If you do not have at least adequate reserves now, then your organization may be financially insecure. Legal challenges have already bankrupted land trusts; you don’t have to be the next sad story. Read more »

Can you afford NOT to re-enroll?

We’re here to help! If you have any questions about updating your policy, baselines or anything else, please let us know. You can reply to this email, email us directly or call 202-800-2219 for Lorri or 802-262-6051 for Leslie.


Keep Current with Critical Dates & Deadlines

How do you make sure that if the person responsible for a deadline gets sick or goes on vacation, someone else will complete critical tasks? Rather than store deadlines and advance schedules to give preparation time in someone’s head (or a file that no one else has regular access too), plan ahead for all filing dates and the lead time to prepare. Keep it current with an electronic shared organizational calendar. A paper calendar stored electronically can work with extra diligence.

Find more suggestions on which dates to track, such as monitoring schedules, state filing deadlines, annual insurance policy review and more practical risk management suggestions »

See IRS dates that may apply to your organization »

Remember that the 2014 policy re-enrollment starts December 1, 2013 and ends February 3, 2014. Terrafirma currently has six claims in process from member land trusts. Please don’t let your coverage lapse. We’re here to help! If you have any questions, please let us know. You can reply to this email, email us directly or call 202-800-2219 for Lorri or 802-262-6051 for Leslie.


Be Prepared for Changes to Constructed Conditions

Buildings, roads and fences are not camera shy. Yet many baselines don’t include pictures or descriptions of constructed conditions on the property – such as houses, barns, riding rings, garages, amenities, driveways, fences, walls, docks and service buildings.

Changes to constructed conditions may change the intensity of use, the kind of use, the location or the impact of reserved rights on the conservation values. When a landowner starts making changes to structures on the property, you want to have a record of what the property looked like before. Baseline documentation establishes the original conditions of the property. So you want to include documentation of constructed conditions as well as natural conditions. If your land trust has to go to court, this could make all the difference in the world. And it will help with successor owners who may claim that this structure was there all the time. What a relief to have that attested baseline showing what was really there!

Remember that the 2014 policy reenrollment starts December 1, 2013 and ends February 3, 2014. Terrafirma currently has six claims in process from member land trusts. Please don’t let your coverage lapse.

We’re here to help! If you have any questions about baselines or anything else, please let us know. You can reply to this email, email us directly or call 202-800-2219 for Lorri or 802-262-6051 for Leslie.


Avoid Confusion with Clear and Complete Approval Letters

Remember that any approval letter or form that you write for a landowner creates an important permanent record.

If the landowner later disputes it or acts contrary to it, attorneys on both sides of the dispute will be carefully scrutinizing every word of your letter or form for ambiguities and nuanced interpretations that could help them. So you want it to be both friendly and firm for the landowner, while clearly and completely documenting all conditions of the approval.

Be sure to attach all relevant maps, photos, diagrams or other depictions of limitations and conditions to avoid any confusion later on. If you requested maps, proposals, or other documentation to approve the landowner action, then attach those documents and incorporate them into the approval!


Budgeting for 2014 Coverage

For many land trusts, budget season is here for 2014, so you may want to start planning for next year’s Terrafirma premium payment. Next year’s payment will be due no later than February 3, 2014. Since your registration fee is already paid, your next payment will only be for the annual premium. To refresh your memory, the base premium before any discounts is $60 per property. Accredited land trusts automatically receive an $11 discount. Discounts are also available for land trusts that meet certain good practices. Check the Terms and Conditions for more details or call or write to me.  

We’re here to help! If you have any questions about premiums or anything else, please let us know. You can reply to this email, email us directly or call 202-800-2219 for Lorri or 802-262-6051 for Leslie (please note, Leslie is on vacation and will be back in the office on August 5).


Savvy Risk-Taking and Prevention

Saving land exposes your land trust to risk, but not all risk is bad. You can advance your mission while taking smart risks.

Please join us for a half-day seminar, Savvy Risk Taking and Prevention, at Rally in New Orleans from September 17-19 to help you plan your way through the unknown. Participants will discuss risk management with a member of the Trout Unlimited risk management committee and with senior leadership from the Society for the Protection of New Hampshire Forests. You'll also receive a full copy of the Land Trust Alliance’s new Risk Management Curriculum book.

The cost for the seminar is $90 for land trust members and $105 for all others. This course qualifies for the Terrafirma risk management discount for 2014. Please note that you must renew risk management credits every year to qualify for the discount.

Be sure to register for the seminar and for Rally before August 26 when registration closes. I hope to see you there. Register today »

Can’t make it to Rally this year? Terrafirma will host two, free one-hour risk management webinars in November (webinar also satisfies risk management credit). Registration will open in the fall.

We’re here to help! If you have any questions about risk management classes or anything else, please let us know. You can reply to this email, email us directly or call 202-800-2219 for Lorri or 802-262-6051 for Leslie.


Notify Us of Possible Violations or Trespass

Spring is here and monitoring is underway. While monitoring, you may find possible violations or trespass on your insured property. Remember to notify Terrafirma immediately when you first discover any problem that might become a claim under your Terrafirma policy (and tell your other insurers too just in case). We will help you sort out the details and are always available to assist you. If you want to have a preliminary chat first, feel free to call or write us by email. Here’s how to notify Terrafirma:

  1. Log on to your account.
  2. Update contact information, if necessary. If you want to add another contact to your account, you can add the contact by clicking on the option to update contact information on the left side of the screen.
  3. Click on the option to notify of a possible claim in the menu. Enter in all of the available information on the claim, including a description of the claim, the damages, the name and contact info of the party involved, etc.
  4. If the information requested on the form is not available (i.e. there is no additional insurance coverage or the other party does not currently have an attorney), enter “n/a.”
  5. Terrafirma staff get an automatic copy as do all contacts listed on your account.

We’re here to help! If you have any questions about submitting a claim or anything else, please let us know. You can reply to this email, email us directly or call 202-800-2219 for Lorri or 802-262-6051 for Leslie.


Download a Copy of Your 2013 Application

Big changes have come to the Terrafirma website. You can now download a PDF of all of the information you entered on your application. Downloading a copy is easy:

  1. Log in to your account at Terrafirma.org.
  2. Click on the option to Download 2013 Application in the menu on the left side of the screen.
  3. A PDF copy of your application will download automatically.

See anything missing or incorrect? Let us know. We’re here to help. You can reply to this email, email us directly, or call 202-800-2219 for Lorri or 802-262-6051 for Leslie.


Tips for Entering Insurance Premiums on Form 990

Form 990 season is here, and it’s likely that someone at your land trust may be wondering where to enter the Terrafirma payment and other insurance premium. We’re here to help! Here are a few tips:

  • Please consult your land trust accountant or tax professional.   We can’t give you tax or other advice.
  • A general reading of the instructions shows that insurance premiums are entered on the main form Part IX, line 23.
  • And lastly, for Schedule D, a general observation of those instructions suggests that the IRS is looking only for specific enforcement actions after you discover a violation by a property owner.  Following that definition would mean not listing any insurance premium payments on Schedule D except possibly in a year of an actual claim meeting the IRS enforcement definition. 
  • Here is the IRS definition of enforcement for purposes of Schedule D:  “Enforcement of an easement means action taken by the organization after it discovers a violation to compel a property owner to adhere to the terms of the conservation easement.”

Remember: consult your land trust’s financial, tax or legal advisor on this new issue.

Let us know how we can help you.

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