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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: July 23, 2016
Victoria, BC – The Land Conservancy of B.C. (TLC) has accepted an offer to purchase Wildwood Ecoforest from Mark Randen, a local ecoforester and former long time apprentice of Merv Wilkinson. The accepted agreement includes a covenant and forest management plan that will ensure that Wildwood remains a working ecoforestry operation and continues Merv Wilkinson’s vision to further promote ecoforestry as a mainstream alternative to clearcutting.
Randen was a protégé of Merv’s who worked closely with the ecoforestry pioneer for 12 years. Randen continues to demonstrate the principle of sustainable ecoforestry, taught by Merv, on his Gabriola Island-based ecoforestry site. Randen’s management of Wildwood will heavily feature opportunities for education, visitation and the training of apprentices to pass along knowledge, skills and abilities to the next generation including First Nations students.
The accepted offer is mortgage free thereby protecting the site from potential foreclosures. The proposed transfer would recover $625,000 in direct funds to pay creditors and $100,000 in creditor forgiveness. TLC will be required to return to the Supreme Court of B.C. to seek Court approval to transfer Wildwood Ecoforest.
“TLC acquired Wildwood Ecoforest from Merv Wilkinson and his family to see the site operated as an example of sustainable ecoforestry,” said Frances Pugh, TLC Board Co-Chair. “With a favourable ruling at our next Court date we will be able to achieve what TLC set out to accomplish through the CCAA process; Merv Wilkinson’s legacy will continue to be protected through a covenant and management plan while TLC’s creditors will be paid to the greatest extent possible.”
TLC had previously attempted to sell Wildwood Ecoforest to the Ecoforestry Institute Society (EIS). The two non-profits signed an agreement in November 2015. In December 2015, days before the scheduled Court date, EIS withdrew citing the inability to complete the deal.
Subsequent negotiations resulted in an offer that replaced a cash component with a mortgage. Additionally, TLC offered to accept partial payment in the form of a take back mortgage in order to maintain the return to creditors and provide the ability to intercede if there was a default on the first mortgage. TLC set a Court date to approve this transfer and again EIS withdrew indicating that donor support had eroded. A third Court date was set and cancelled when EIS again experienced difficulty to meet the financial commitments in the signed sale agreement.
“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,” said Cathy Armstrong, TLC Executive Director. “The Board of Directors and I no longer have faith in EIS’s ability to complete the purchase of Wildwood Ecoforest or to fund ongoing operations after purchasing.”
To date TLC has raised more than $5.1 million in direct funds and creditor forgiveness from its transactions under the Plan of Arrangement. These funds have been utilized to repay in full the Debtor in Possession loans, as well as pay fees of lawyers and the Court-appointed Monitor, property taxes and mortgage claims by secured creditors. Secured creditors are owed a remaining $700,000 while unsecured creditors are owed $3.5 million.
The completion of TLC’s Plan of Arrangement will require the sale of densities zoned on Abkhazi Garden and the transfer of Lohbrunner Farm, the Historic Joy Kogawa House, 6% undivided interest in Maltby Lake, and Wildwood Ecoforest. TLC will be meeting with creditors in the fall to seek acceptance of a revised Plan of Compromise and Arrangement that will outline the strategy to complete the CCAA process.
Upon completion of the CCAA process TLC will continue to protect sensitive ecosystems through the monitoring and enforcement of more than 230 conservation covenants throughout B.C.
About The Land Conservancy of BC
The Land Conservancy of BC (TLC) is a non-profit, charitable Land Trust working throughout British Columbia. TLC’s primary mandate is to benefit the community by protecting habitat for natural communities of plants and animals. Founded in 1997, TLC is membership-based and governed by an elected, volunteer Board of Directors. TLC relies on a strong membership and volunteer base to help maintain its operations.
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TLC Executive Director
Office (250) 479-8053
Cell (250) 588-4945