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 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.





Hannah Flake

Conservation Defense Coordinator
(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.


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:

Precautions to Protect Each Other

Our hearts are with those affected by the devastating fires and storms that are happening across the country. All of us in conservation can take strength from working together. We can all learn from each other too.

While no comparison to the unfathomable fires and fierce storms, a recent Maryland case demonstrates how even everyday practices can create huge liability for land trusts. The Maryland Court of Appeals affirmed a verdict for over $1.3 million in the case of Steamfitters Local Union No. 602 v. Erie Insurance Exchange, et al., when a mulch pile caught fire from a cigarette and the fire spread along a fence to two other neighbors’ properties.

The Learning Center has a variety of examples of safety manuals, resource lists, disaster plans, and other land ownership information. Be sure to ask your liability insurance carrier for their information and pointers on risk management as well.

Sharing ideas and support will help us recover and recalibrate. I hope you can attend some of these virtual events to connect with other land trusts:

Virtual Land Trust Alliance Rally 2020, Oct. 6-8 with 60 workshops and access to recordings afterward.

Virtual 2020 Risk Summit, Oct. 19 and 20, with two full days of risk training. To help ease the impact of COVID-19 related changes this year, any land trust staff member who attends a risk management program may claim the Terrafirma risk management discount for 2021.

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.

September 22, 2020 | Tags:

Mark your calendars for The 2020 Risk Summit

Land trust members of Terrafirma and the Land Trust Alliance are invited to take advantage of a complimentary registration for The 2020 Risk Summit on October 19th and 20th, 2020. It is a unique, two-day virtual event for nonprofit leaders and industry professionals who support nonprofit missions. Terrafirma member organizations are eligible for the 2021 Risk Management discount of $1 per parcel if they attend the Risk Summit or take advantage of the opportunity by watching recordings of a conference session within 30 days after the Risk Summit ends.

The conference features 30+ educational sessions, interactive networking segments and live musical performances. Recordings of all conference sessions will be available to registrants for 30 days after the Risk Summit ends. Your host is the Nonprofit Risk Management Center (NRMC), the only national nonprofit dedicated to inspiring effective risk management practices across the nonprofit and NGO sectors.

Register here. Please note that you can only register if you have registered with the Center as an Affiliate and are a land trust member of the Land Trust Alliance.

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.


P.S. You may have noticed that you are now receiving a message directly from the Terrafirma website for Claims that are currently on hold. For better organization and ease of use, we are now housing updates on the Terrafirma website and sending update requests from the website rather than via e-mail. We hope that this will help to avoid confusion and make information on your claims and updates easier to access for anyone at your organization who needs it. Thank you for helping us as Terrafirma grows past 1,000 claims!


Financial Management during COVID-19

Financial management can be more of a challenge than usual in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, requiring additional thought, care and planning. The Land Trust Alliance has put together a list of frequently asked questions and answers regarding use of restricted funds, when to utilize reserves, and how to maintain fiscal controls while working remotely, plus links to more resources. Check it out here.

Note that this is intended as a starting point for land trusts to be supplemented by additional financial management materials and guidance and is not legal, financial or other advice. If a land trust or individual requires legal advice or other expert assistance, they should seek the services of competent professionals.

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

Thank you,

P.S. Do you have 10 minutes for practical tips on re-opening? Melanie Lockwood-Herman, executive director of the Nonprofit Risk Management Center, discusses strengthening relationships, organizational planning and getting your team and facilities ready when re-opening offices. See the quick course here.


Drafting Easements to Avoid Disputes

You may have heard that the U.S. Tax Court issued a series of recent opinions that directly address the specific language and necessary elements of a proceeds clause for conservation easements to qualify as charitable contributions. In response, the Land Trust Alliance updated its guidance concerning drafting provisions in conservation easements concerning extinguishment and proceeds -- Pointers for Drafting the Proceeds Clause in Conservation Easements. Your attorney may want to review your template to help avoid additional disputes with landowners. Terrafirma is seeing an uptick in claims where the landowner refuses to comply with the percentage payment in any clause.

The Alliance also has these additional helpful pointers on easement drafting to avoid disputes:

  1. Pointers For Balancing Risk When Permitting Structures On Deductible Conservation Easements
  2. Pointers for Balancing Risk on Conservation Easement Modification Eight Elements to Consider Following the Full Tax Court Decision
  3. What you need to know from tax cases shorn of nuances
  4. Pointers for Balancing IRS Audit Risk When Permitting Commercial Forestry on Tax-Deductible Conservation Easements

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


Stewardship during COVID-19

The pandemic presents unprecedented challenges for monitoring and enforcement. Terrafirma takes these special circumstances into account so that you can focus on staying safe. Please document any deviations from standard procedures and anything that might affect your eligibility requirements for Terrafirma this year.


We highly recommend that you read Conservation Stewardship in the Time of COVID-19 on the Land Trust Alliance Learning Center for tips on proceeding with essential work while managing risk.


Most importantly for your Terrafirma coverage, remember to file a claim for any issues discovered during the 2019 policy period (March 1, 2019 to March 1, 2020) by April 30, 2020. The grace period end date of April 30 never changes, so you can add a recurring calendar item for each year so you don’t forget!


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


Conservation Defense Coordinator
(202) 800-2248  |  


Have your cake and eat it too

People who love land also tend to be optimists who see the best in people. We believe in settling disputes through courtesy, perseverance, and rational thought – keeping interactions sweet, not salty.

You can work through issues together and file a claim with Terrafirma immediately, at the very first hint of a disagreement or problem. Filing a claim with your conservation defense liability insurance might feel like an aggressive last resort, but it should be one of your first moves. Terrafirma does not notify the other party that a claim was filed, and you can keep the claim on hold while you try to reach an amicable resolution. This way, if you need assistance later on, you don’t need to worry about a claim not qualifying for coverage because it was filed too late.

You can have your cake and eat it too! Hold your place in line by filing a Terrafirma claim, then move ahead confidently knowing that you have a backup plan in place. Wondering when sweet as sugar language needs some salt? See our newly revised When to Shift Gears.

Lastly, please remember that the grace period for the 2019 Terrafirma policy period ends on April 30. File any claims for lingering issues that were first discovered between March 1, 2019 and March 1, 2020 by that day.

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


Look Again!

When was the last time your organization reviewed your stewardship policy? If it was pre-Terrafirma, it may be time to take another look.

Your policy likely describes how stewardship reserves are set, and it may advise landowners that the funds will be segregated and used only for monitoring and enforcement, not for daily operations of the land trust.

If you have Terrafirma coverage, you might consider adding language that makes it clear if:

  • Reserves may include a contribution of premium for the Terrafirma policy as part of the initial funding
  • Some of the stewardship funds will be used to pay for Terrafirma policies covering not only easements, but the land trust’s own fee properties


Have questions about policy drafting or anything else? Please let us know. You can email us directly or call 802-262-6051 for Leslie, or 202-800-2248 for myself.


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