Monday, December 19, 2016

Year end thoughts

By Beth Sullivan
I do NOT like asking people for money. I am pretty good at asking for favors, services, bartering, begging, that’s all good. I would much rather be doing stewardship on the preserves than thinking about administrative stuff. I don’t mind writing and love educating, so that’s OK too. But I am not good at raising actual money.
Habitat management practices can be costly, but are essential for the health of the landscape.

After being a member of Avalonia for about 30 years and participating actively for the last 6 years, I have come to realize there is far more to land conservation than stewardship, and even good stewardship done by volunteers, comes at a cost.

Avalonia's expenses

Most of us use our own tools, but we do have some larger equipment to mow trails, maintain roadsides, and cut brush. The machines are expensive, and when they break down they are expensive to fix. Sometimes we are lucky and a volunteer can do maintenance, but we have to buy parts and fuel. Sometimes we have to call in licensed professionals to do tree work safely and contractors with larger equipment for mowing big fields. We have to store our equipment properly so it is safe and accessible for all stewards. So this year, thanks in part to a generous donation, we purchased a utility trailer. We needed to outfit it and get it set up for storage and it needs insurance.
Some things you just can't tackle completely by hand.

Sometimes you have to call in the contractors with the right equipment.

Insurance, who ever thinks of insurance while out on a lovely woodland trail, but we have to carry insurance to be safe. Such a gamble, like all insurance, but necessary. Insurance is also required to protect our easements. People ask us to protect land that they still own, and we need insurance to do so. Horror stories have been written about defending easements to protect land from illegal uses.
We are grateful for volunteer member who bring in their own equipment to get the job done.

And land itself, people don’t seem to be interested in saving large parcels of family land as often as they used to, at least not as pure donations. The cost of high quality land is huge, and it is understandable that people need to seek some financial gain from their land. We are constantly looking for funding sources and grants to help to protect as much land as we possibly can in our mission area. It is an investment in the future, but not an investment that will ever be drawn on for financial gain. With very few exceptions, the land we acquire is to be protected in perpetuity. We have been so lucky this past year to receive several wonderful donations of land, but even those come with costs.

Babcock Ridge was our last acquisition purchase.

Each parcel of land comes with needs for proper surveys, legal costs, resource assessment, management plans and initial stewardship efforts. That really adds up. It costs about $250 per trail head sign, depending on size, even when installed by volunteers. And the paperwork is huge too: keeping all our lands’ papers sorted, filed properly, organized both in paper and digital files.
We would like to provide more informational signage on other preserves.

And that is just the actual land based costs. There are operating costs no one likes to think about but are very real: rent, heat, salary for over-worked, minimal staff, sorting out computer programs and data bases. And all those forms necessary for being an approved non-profit. Glad someone else takes care of that, not me. It also takes time and money to actually appeal for donations: mailings, newsletters, and reports are still going out to the majority of people who still like paper.
Stewards need to make sure the structures on our preserves are safe, and if not, replace them to prevent accidents. Photograph by Binti Ackley. 

I am sure this only scratches the surface. So much work goes on behind the scenes that I never see because I am in the bushes. We are blessed to have a great core of volunteers, a dedicated Board of Directors, and two part-time staffers who keep the whole thing organized.
We are so grateful for our members whose contributions keep us running. We would like to run a little faster and stronger. With donations we can think about upgrading equipment, purchasing more land, and taking even better care of the land we have.

Please help us by contributing to Avalonia

The end of the year is the time to review and reflect. How better to make a difference for the next year, the next decade, the next generation, than by helping us acquire and protect the land for you and your families. It does “take a village” to protect its resources.
We are counting on our villagers. Thank you!

Photographs by Beth Sullivan, unless otherwise indicated.

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