By Darren Lum
Taking the positives from 2021 is keeping spirits high for an upcoming year after the Haliburton Highlands Land Trust annual general meeting held virtually on Thursday, June 23.
Land Trust chair Shelley Hunt said,“It was a nice ride. We had a great year in 2021 and the early part of 2022.”
Hunt continues, “This past year was eventful and fruitful year for the Land Trust despite the continued challenges of the COVID pandemic. I think we have done a good job of [supporting our] properties and raising funds and securing grants and research, engaging the community with educational opportunities and materials all of this aimed at protecting the land we love for current and future generations,” she said during her report.
Among the highlights include successful applications for grants in 2021 and early 2022, which is due to the efforts of volunteers and staff member Christel Furniss.
The grants include the RBC’s Tech for Nature grant worth $25,000 used to evaluate and classify wetlands, as well as analyze habitat connectivity (using circuitscape analysis) across part of the county that constitutes the important wildlife corridor known as the “Highlands Corridor;” the Environment and Climate Change Canada’s Habitat Stewardship Program worth $42,000 for work on the Highlands Corridor that involved mapping, evaluating, and protecting the Laronde Wetland Complex, and stewardship of Blanding’s turtle and the whip-poor-will habitat through partnerships with private landowners (specifically offering property management plans and enrolling landowners in a tax incentive program to promote good stewardship) and development of outreach materials for the public; the TD bank’s Friends of the Environment Foundation grant worth $9,600 to support Discovery Days educational programs, which were offered in-person and online; Ontario government’s Species at Risk Stewardship Fund worth $28,000 to conduct research on the presence and distribution of a rare wetland plant and two “lost” ladybug species on Land Trust properties and in Haliburton County, including support outreach initiatives related to the lady beetles, and a virtual talk led by an expert entomologist held on June 2. Resilient Communities fund provided by the Ontario Trillium Foundation in support of the worth strategic plan renewal close to $9,000, which will secure professional support for the strategic planning process that will be initiated this year.
Last year’s online auction fundraiser raised $12,500, which was an increase of 160 per cent increase compared to 2020. The greater total was due to using a paid online auction platform Auctria instead of Facebook. The Land Trust plans to continue to use Auctria for fundraising auctions that will complement the return of in-person events.
Nearly $6,000 was raised from the “Adopt an Acre” program. Although new membership numbers were down in 2021 compared to the year before, Hunt said, 2020 numbers were higher than other years so the membership numbers were still strong overall with more than $7,000 raised in 2021. New this year is the “Move for Nature,” which encourages Land Trust volunteers and members to participate in outdoor challenges that their friends and family can sponsor through Canada Helps. Thus far, there has been $4,000 raised.
Hunt said the Land Trust is appreciative to the support in the community it has received as from the Haliburton County Development Corporation for their contribution of $5,000 to improve the entrance lane and the parking lot for the Barnum Creek Nature Reserve – she extended thanks to efforts by Pat Casey, who is a neighbour for extending the parking lot. HCDC also provided $4,000 to support the goat initiative for property maintenance – “nature’s mowers” at Barnum Creek. The Rotary Club of Haliburton provided $7,000 for purchase and installation of four benches at the Barnum Creek Nature Reserve and the Dahl Forest. The Ontario Highlands Tourism Organization contributed $3,000 to the area habitat through the Community Champions Program. Also, there are collaboration with students through Ulinks, Trent University, Fleming College, and guided hikes are being conducted by adventure provider, Yours Outdoors.
Also, new this year is the Land Trust’s website, which enables the offering of virtual education programs and allow for online fundraising and event registration, and improved navigation and help with finding information.
“The website redesign has been fantastic. It has improved some of the functionality of the website and it’s also just really beautiful looking,” she said.
The site, she said, is now showcasing the two new videos produced this year: Wonder in the Woods, Conservation in Action. It was possible from a Ontario Trillium Foundation grant.
Tyson Shennett of Peter Shennett Professional Corporation said the Land Trust had a good year despite spending more than what was received in 2021 during his independent auditor’s report.
“If you do that every year, that’s a problem, but you’re not doing something every year and, really, it’s caused by some of the timing in the grants, so overall in a fairly healthy situation and you should be pretty happy based on the direction Land Trust is going based on your finances,” he said.
Donations were down but the annual fundraiser was up, so there is a correlation or a “balancing out” between the two, he said. The paid program used for the fundraiser increased expenses, but the revenue generated justified the cost.
This year the Land Trust used more money than they received. It worked out to be $8,691 in 2021 compared to bringing in $28,406 more than spent 2020. This can happen with when the grant is recognized as revenue. This year many of the grants were in the process of coming instead of them being paid out in full at the end of the year like the year before.
“It’s not necessarily a bad thing that there was more money spent than came in this year, really, with last year being brought in more than you spent as long as you’re not too out of whack here it’s really not a major concern. It reflects, basically, the Land Trust is trying to spend the money that comes in to improve their properties and use the money as well. There’s not a point of not necessarily having ton of money that isn’t being used,” he said.
Shennet’s auditing services were retained for 2022.
Hunt was grateful to the support of the Land Trust and the people, who contribute.
“I just want to extend a big thank you to our volunteers, our members and other donors. All of our activities and accomplishments over the past year would not be possible without including our hard working board,” she said.
Hunt continued, “In closing, the Land Trust is grateful for the community, our volunteers, members and donors without whom we would not be able to accomplish our mission in protecting the land that we love and we’re looking forward to another exciting and eventful year on behalf of all the board thank you very much,” Hunt said in her chair’s report.