The Privatization Of Wildwood

New Release July 25, 2016

The Ecoforestry Institute Society (EIS) is shocked to read The Land Conservancy’s (TLC) July 23, 2016 news release that they will be seeking court approval to sell Wildwood to a private individual, who was part of an offer on Wildwood that TLC said was withdrawn. EIS was surprised because TLC had requested and received an extension until July 23 for the $700,000 offer submitted by EIS. It appears TLC planned to make the private sale all along.

EIS believes that Wildwood is held by TLC in trust and that a private sale contravenes the Charitable Purposes Preservation Act – since Wildwood was purchased with $1 million in public donations it can only be sold to a like-minded charitable society. EIS believes a private sale is a betrayal of the public trust and a misuse of public donations.

The intended TLC sale to Mr. Randen must still be approved by the Supreme Court of BC. On Friday, July 29th, TLC is applying for an extension of its court monitored process, and EIS legal counsel will be there to speak to any attempt to push through approval of the private sale.

EIS became Wildwood’s official forest managers in 2001 at the request of the late Merv Wilkinson, original owner of Wildwood. EIS has been a charitable society since 1993, and the board is comprised of ecoforesters, ethnobotanists, and registered professional foresters. Alan Drengson, a founder of EIS, coined the word “ecoforestry”.

EIS had offered TLC $700,000 for Wildwood, along with a trust deed, covenant and forest management plan. The trust deed and covenant were to be placed on the land title ahead of financial obligations that might be held against the property.

The TLC news release states that “TLC has stood with keys in hand on three occasions, December 2015, April 2016 and June 2016, having signed a contract to sell conditional on Court approval. EIS has caused each of these Court dates to be cancelled purportedly due to the inability to fund the purchase price.” This is simply not true. The truth is that EIS offered to buy Wildwood on July 24, 2015, for $900,000 cash, but TLC initially refused.

They refused because they were unable to let go of the private sale they have now made, and EIS will bring this issue before the court at the next opportunity. TLC finally accepted the $900,000 offer on November 3rd, 2015, after arguing to have trust protections removed from the deal.

Because of the long delay in getting a deal signed, the December 2015 court date had to be cancelled after donor funding fell through. The April 26 court date was cancelled to allow the completion of the trust deed and covenant, and to agree they would be placed on the land title, so the delay was through no fault of either party. That contract was allowed to expire by TLC, despite EIS asking if they would like to extend it, and then the June court date was cancelled without warning by TLC after receiving another EIS offer to which TLC offered no response. EIS then made the current $700,000 offer, to which TLC responded by selling Wildwood to a private individual, for just $25,000 more than EIS’s offer.

TLC also focuses on the lack of any mortgage in accepting the private sale, yet they were insistent on a vendor-take back mortgage for $170,000 as part of their last agreement with EIS.

EIS is the only entity of its kind in the world – specializing in ecoforestry. It’s a very small community in Canada. They welcome any bidders for Wildwood to put forward their qualifications as an ecoforester for TLC members, creditors, and the public to consider, as EIS has done.

TLC’s news release claims they had no choice but to accept the private offer. The fact is they had both offers on the table, and the EIS offer of $700,000 afforded stronger protections for Wildwood.

At the July 18th creditors meeting, TLC pledged to honour protection of property over financial gain in response to a query from a concerned creditor who was willing to donate her debt to protect a property. In fact, it is quite the opposite, in order to get a purchase price which is only $25,000 higher, TLC will spend countless dollars on legal fees to fight for the right to sell a protected property privately, undermining the land trust movement in the process.

EIS has faced a few funding difficulties, that’s true, but they have the money to support their current offer, and were ready to seek court approval of that on June 16th, or any time in the future.

TLC members and creditors should ask TLC – how much will they spend on lawyers to fight to sell Wildwood privately? Is it worth it? How much has TLC spent on legal fees in relation to Wildwood since they refused EIS’s $900,000 cash offer a year ago.

The key difference with EIS’s offer is that they would put Wildwood in trust – meaning it is held for the benefit of the people of British Columbia, and cannot be sold for private gain, ever again. In so doing EIS is following in Merv’s pioneering footsteps – by finding new legal ways to protect land well into the future.

EIS believes the sale of publicly donated property to an individual is inappropriate and illegal, and that TLC’s creditors deserve an agreement that will not be contested in court. EIS has offered that, and has now extended their offer to protect Wildwood until September 6th.

If TLC seeks court approval of this private sale, EIS will oppose it with every means at its disposal. This includes asking the court to examine TLC staff and directors regarding the extensive history of this private sale and their refusal of EIS’s July 2015 $900,000 cash offer. EIS will ask the court to grant the court-appointed Monitor the power to investigate and report.

EIS needs support now from the Wildwood community and the general public in this pursuit, both in funding and in any expertise or capacity individuals or organizations wish to offer. Please contact us now.

Media contacts:

Barry Gates
EIS Vice-Chair

Kathy Code
EIS Communications Director