Ecoforestry Institute Society EIS Logo

Jane Goodall urges TLC to reconsider sale of Wildwood

Friday, November 4, 2016
Page 3
A. Smart
Times Colonist (Victoria)

Celebrity chimpanzee expert Jane Goodall is joining a battle over the future of a Vancouver Island ecoforest.

In a letter issued by the Jane Goodall Institute, Goodall urged The Land Conservancy of B.C. to reconsider its decision to sell Wildwood to a private owner.

Goodall first visited the 31-hectare property, located south of Nanaimo, in 1997 and has returned many times. She planted a sapling on the property in honour of her friend Anne Pask-Wilkinson, who was married to Wildwood founder Merv Wilkinson, the letter says.

The primatologist praised the work of the ecoforest’s late founder for showing that a forest could be rich and healthy when logged sustainably.

“Selling Wildwood to a private owner, even with a covenant to protect it, is not what the Wilkinsons wanted,” Goodall says in the letter.

“They wanted Wildwood to be a public property forever, a demonstration working ecoforest where generations can learn that you don’t have to chop the forest down to benefit from it.”

The Victoria-based Land Conservancy has accepted an offer from Mark Randen, who worked with Wilkinson for 10 years. Randen would pay $625,000 to the society, which would go toward creditor debt. The agreement would also include $100,000 in creditor forgiveness.

The sale is part of TLC’s effort to pay down its debt and must be approved by the Supreme Court of B.C.

Goodall urged The Land Conservancy to sell the property to the Ecoforestry Institute Society.In a response letter to Goodall, TLC executive director Cathy Armstrong said the non-profit initially tried to sell the property to the Ecoforestry Institute.

The Land Conservancy signed a contract of sale with the Ecoforestry Institute in November 2015 and scheduled a court date, Armstrong said.

“Days before the court date, EIS withdrew, citing an inability to complete the transaction,” Armstrong’s letter says.

“In the spring of 2016, TLC worked closely with EIS to create a new offer, which both parties accepted and a second court date was set for June 2016. Again, days before the court date, EIS withdrew their offer citing an inability to complete.”

The year of negotiating with the Ecoforestry Institute cost The Land Conservancy $42,000 in legal fees alone, Armstrong said.

The Land Conservancy then turned to Randen. Armstrong said the organization believes he will preserve Wilkinson’s legacy.

Randen, who learned from Wilkinson, practices the ecoforestry methodology and sells products in Canada and Asia. His offer includes a conservation covenant and detailed management plan, the letter says.

“TLC wants, first and foremost, to protect the legacy of Merv Wilkinson,” Armstrong writes.

“We are confident that this transaction to Mr. Randen will preserve all of the elements present when Merv was alive, harvesting, milling, educating and preserving the nature of the forest, its health and sustainability.”

asmart@timescolonist.com

© Copyright Times Colonist