TerraBites

A short newsletter of bite-size ideas to chew on for Terrafirma owner-member land trusts, released January, February, May, June, September, October and November.

 

Terrafirma Reaches 545 Members and Over 10 Million Acres

The 545 land trust owner-members of Terrafirma mark some notable events this month. They now collectively insure over 10,212,198 acres. That is 38% more than when the Alliance started Terrafirma in 2013, and one and a half times the size of Hawaii! Terrafirma has also paid out $4.5 million for covered claims, handled over 1,500 claims and insured over 36,000 conservation properties. Terrafirma has almost $12 million in total assets and is fully compliant with regulations.

February 22, 2022 also marks the 40th anniversary of the Land Trust Alliance. In honor of all of these collective achievements, the Alliance will host two complimentary webinars as part of Member Celebration Week for land trust members and Affiliates — Transforming Your Organizational Culture on Feb. 23 and Staying Connected While Working Remotely on Feb. 24.

Thank you to all the owner-members of Terrafirma for helping us to grow stronger each year! Each land trust is a critical part of this formidable, shared conservation defense liability service. We appreciate your commitment to lasting conservation. 

 

Hannah

Hannah Flake
Conservation Defense Specialist
ALLIANCE RISK MANAGEMENT SERVICES LLC

P.S. Stay on top of any potential claims you have lingering from the 2021 policy period by filing a claim before the end of the grace period on April 30 - the sooner the better. If you have questions about filing a claim or anything else, please let us know.

 

Uptick in extinguishment demands

Terrafirma is seeing an increase in extinguishment demands by successor owners and third parties. These extinguishment demands are often based on bad faith allegations of hardship, negligence or deceptive practices. 

We are also seeing these demands increase because of changes to the land resulting from extreme and unusual weather. They use this as an excuse to attempt to eliminate conservation easements and even to justify trespassing on preserves. The Land Trust Alliance recently published two new Practical Pointers to help land trusts adapt to changing conditions when drafting easements and when administering all conservation holdings.

Here are some additional risk mitigation steps that your land trust can take:

  • Ensure that you have ample insurance coverage (Terrafirma, title, general liability and directors and officers).
  • Carry out community outreach so that folks of all persuasions see you as an important ally.
  • File a Terrafirma claim at the first mention of hiring a lawyer, filing a lawsuit, demanding extinguishment/boundary adjustment by a landowner or neighbor, or any other possible damage or challenge. If you are not certain, then be safe and file a placeholder claim.

We're here to help! If you have questions, please contact us at .


Sincerely,

Hannah

Hannah Flake
Conservation Defense Specialist
ALLIANCE RISK MANAGEMENT SERVICES LLC
(202) 800-2248  |  

P.S. Remember to submit your Terrafirma application for the 2022 policy year by Tuesday, Feb. 1!

 

Disorganized records are as good as lost

You have a lot of information to track, so it is important that you have a clear system for maintaining records that everyone in the organization follows all the time. You cannot save every piece of paper and still hope to identify and retrieve a critical record when the need arises. Records that are unmarked, misfiled or buried in so much redundant paperwork that they cannot be located in a timely manner are as good as lost. 

Once you have a policy in place, everyone should follow detailed written procedures to ensure that nothing is accidentally misplaced and that your land trust is not overwhelmed with documents. These procedures should describe how to establish, identify, collect, manage, store and purge records, as well as reflect your consideration of the records needed to advance your mission, what records might be helpful or necessary to defend your land trust and what records are required by law.

Next month we will review a few specific critical records that you need to keep.

We're here to help! If you have questions, please contact us at .


Sincerely,

Hannah

 
September 18, 2021 | Tags:

Keeping Good Records

Have great records.

You always hear that, but what does it mean and how do you do it? Land trust staff and volunteers that have experienced difficult disputes, whether on easement or owned land, can offer examples. They report that they communicated quickly and clearly with the landowner or neighbor, documented those communications in a phone, email, text and letter log, then documented fully all conditions on the protected property with dozens or sometimes hundreds of labelled photos, videos, descriptions, maps and aerial imagery. They diligently followed Land Trust Standards and PracticesBob Neale, stewardship director for the Sonoma Land Trust and the lead staff for the entirety of their eight-year violation process including two appeals, said that “by following Standards and Practices diligently, we had the factual foundation in place for a solid defense that greatly supported our strong legal case.”

One of the first ways to identify facts is to prepare a timeline, including key dates such as:

  • when the relationship between the parties started;
  • when the contract was formed or when the conservation easement was signed; and
  • when a violation occurred or other legal challenge commenced.

As part of this process, you can identify key people, including witnesses. Identify key events that did not happen, such as procedures that were not followed. In addition to thinking about the key facts, consider how the facts can be shown to the landowner or neighbor, and ultimately perhaps to a judge or jury. What facts are likely to have an emotional impact or be a critical deciding factor? Make the timeline detailed and annotate it with identification of documents that substantiate the facts.

Next month we will take a look at how a record policy and procedures can help you prevail in any dispute.  

We're here to help! If you have questions, please contact us at .


Sincerely,

Hannah
 

Hannah Flake
Conservation Defense Coordinator
ALLIANCE RISK MANAGEMENT SERVICES LLC
(202) 800-2248  |  

 

Adapted from: Practical Pointers for Land Trusts When Facing a Lawsuit or Other Legal Challenge of Any Size

 
August 15, 2021 | Tags:

Good Information Makes Good Neighbors

Issues with neighbors can be inevitable, even when everyone has good intentions. Ongoing disputes with neighbors can lead to claims of property damage, encroachment, nuisance or trespass. The inconsistent use of conservation property contrary to land trust guidelines can damage the conservation values or result in the land trust inadvertently granting an impermissible private benefit to the trespasser. The outcome of litigation is decided by state and local law, so land trusts should consult with experienced local counsel.

Terrafirma currently has 164 open claims regarding some type of neighbor difficulty, usually involving trespass or encroachments but also involving boundary disputes, access disputes and legal disputes about the enforceability of easements. Of the 164 total neighbor claims, 16 are covered claims in litigation or bound for litigation. Regardless of the nature of the dispute, there are some standard steps that can help prepare a land trust.

We’re here to help! If you have any questions, please let us know.

Sincerely,
Hannah

 

Hannah Flake
Conservation Defense Coordinator
ALLIANCE RISK MANAGEMENT SERVICES LLC
(202) 800-2248  |  

 

Protect your land trust from ransomware

Ransomware is a type of Cybercrime, a broad category that includes phishing, social engineering, invoice fraud, and extortion. It reportedly is the current leading cause of cyber attacks. Ransomware attacks, where someone uses malicious software to make your data inaccessible, are on the rise. Multiple land trusts have reported phishing schemes in the past year where they lost their data to a cyber-criminal such as happened to Colonial Pipeline.  

Luckily, there is a lot that you can do!

Phishing emails almost always appear to come from a legitimate source, but it is not one and there are clues if you look for them.

  • Exercise caution with links or attachments in emails you were not expecting; when in doubt, assume it is unsafe.
  • Hover over the link to make sure that it goes to a legitimate site.
  • Make sure everyone in your organization has training on identifying suspicious e-mails, texts, links or phone calls.

Have a plan and be proactive.

  • Spend as much time on how you will handle a cyber-attack as in trying to prevent one. Have a cyber emergency plan that covers who, what, where and when.
  • Consider a cyber insurance policy. Make sure you have the cyber carrier’s risk management contact info and instructions and have them accessible on paper for key staff. For more specific security measures see 6 Things Cyber Underwriters Love
  • Back up your files. This keeps you from losing all of your data and then you can restore from your physical hard drive rather than pay a ransom. Access to cloud backups usually are blocked in a ransomware attack so have a physical hard drive backup too that you disconnect from your server or computers every night.
  • Update your systems and software frequently so you immediately deploy security patches.
  • Practice good password hygiene – long phrases, used only once per account, never revealed to others. You may want to use multi-factor authentication or a password manager.
  • Follow the standard procedures on breach preparedness from the guide provided by MS-ISAC.

We’re here to help! If you have any questions, please let us know.

 

Sincerely,
Hannah

Hannah Flake
Conservation Defense Coordinator
ALLIANCE RISK MANAGEMENT SERVICES LLC
(202) 800-2248  |  

 

Four important things about your Terrafirma policy

As Terrafirma prepares to enter its ninth policy year, we would like to remind members of some important points. Terrafirma is a unique insurance company – a nonprofit, member-owned risk retention group, created specifically to help land trusts. Please keep the following in mind so that we can better help you.

  1. File your claim at www.terrafirma.org within the policy year in which the problem first started to avoid risking loss of coverage of the claim.
  2. The policy year is not the same as the calendar year – it is March 1 to March 1, plus a 60-day grace period that ends April 30.
  3. Filing claims does not affect your premium price! If in doubt, please file a claim or contact us at .
  4. Entering a dispute in the Challenges section of your application is not an official claim.

We’re here to help! If you have any questions, please let us know.

 

Sincerely,
Hannah

Hannah Flake
Conservation Defense Coordinator
ALLIANCE RISK MANAGEMENT SERVICES LLC
(202) 800-2248  |  

 
February 18, 2021 | Tags:

Terrafirma applications are open!

December is here and it is time to start your Terrafirma application for 2021. I know how busy you are with year-end closings on top of the extra work that 2020 has brought. Leslie and I are here to make the process as smooth and easy as possible, so please email or call us with any questions.

Your land trust’s current Terrafirma policy ends March 1, 2021. Coverage continues only if you reconfirm eligibility and pay for a 2021 policy on the Terrafirma website. The confirmation period began December 1 and ends February 1, 2021.

It’s as easy as 1-2-3!

  1. Reconfirm your eligibility
  2. Add or remove parcels if necessary
  3. Click the “submit” button and pay (see details here)

Once you update, the 2021 coverage period continues from the original policy date. Everything is online; Terrafirma does not send paper invoices, notices, applications or policies. Please remember to file a Claim for any possible problems that you discovered this policy year, even if you are unsure about the issues.

Awaiting the February decision from the Accreditation Commission?

If you are awaiting your February accreditation decision for the first time, don't hit that submit button just yet! Please fill out your application and then hit "submit" once your decision is received. There is an $11/parcel accreditation discount that we don't want you to miss.

Something new this year

Much has changed in Terrafirma’s eight years of operation, and it is time to vote on a new operating agreement. The elected Members Committee for Terrafirma unanimously recommends that you vote to adopt the Third Amended And Restated Limited Liability Company Operating Agreement For Terrafirma Risk Retention Group LLC. When you fill out your online application you will see the request for your vote, along with a summary of the proposed changes and details of the proposed amendments.

Stick with it!

We know that these are uncertain times and money is always tight. Your conservation defense insurance coverage is a sensible way to reduce some of that uncertainty.

Risk Management discount still available

If you have not yet attended a webinar on Risk Management to get your 2021 Terrafirma dollar-per-property discount, there are two more. Or you can take the online Risk Management Course for the $1 discount per property.

We’re here to help! If you have any questions, please let us know.

 

Sincerely,

Hannah

 

Hannah Flake

Conservation Defense Coordinator
ALLIANCE RISK MANAGEMENT SERVICES LLC
(202) 800-2248  |  

 

 

P.S. With the conservation easement closing season upon us, you may want to scan the drafting pointers on The Learning Center in the Conservation Defense library collection of Practical Pointers. Remember to include a comprehensive costs and fees collection clause. See the Terrafirma suggested clause in the drafting pointers

 

Applications Open Soon

The holidays are almost here and we at Terrafirma wish you a happy and safe holiday season, whatever that may look like for you this year.

The Terrafirma application period is just around the corner. Starting December 1, you will be able to log in and update your application for the 2021 policy period that begins on March 1, 2021.

There are three more opportunities to sign up for a Risk Management webinar and claim your discount for the 2021 policy year. For the 2021 policy year only, due to the pandemic, this opportunity applies to any staff or board members.

December 10 | Advanced Topics in Risk Management: Safety Plans and Waivers

January 14 | Advanced Topics in Risk Management: Conflict or compromise

January 20 | Basic Risk Management: Tools & Resources


Have questions? Please let us know. You can e-mail us directly or call 802-262-6051 for Leslie, or 202-800-2248 for myself.


Thanks,
Hannah

P.S. Congratulations to Meghann McKenna, Brendan Annett and Jane Arbuckle, the newest Members Committee representatives – we’re happy to have you on board!

 
 

Screen Your Screen Time

By now you may be familiar with "Zoom fatigue," that drain on our energy that comes with moving our lives, inside and out of work, online.

You already know the health benefits of time in nature. Here are some tips to get away from the screen when you can't be outside.

  • Have some meetings over the phone rather than on screen. Not having to hold still so you can remain in the middle of a camera frame means your body can relax.
  • Try planning projects, brainstorming, and writing to do lists on paper.
  • Work movement into your day, with small breaks for stretching, walking around, or a mini-workout.
  • See if you can carve out time during lunch and after work for screen-free entertainment, like a book or craft.

Adapted from “5 Tips to Reduce Screen Time While You’re WFH”, by Elizabeth Grace Saunders

 
 
October 19, 2020 | Tags:

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