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Terrafirma Tackles Challenges of Every Size

March 19, 2014 | Land Trust Alliance | Washington, D.C.

You don’t have to have a precedent-setting case or huge expenses to get Terrafirma coverage. In fact, Terrafirma is currently covering nine claims - plus one more claim in the information gathering process and another 20 for which land trusts gave notice of possible claims that they are still investigating. Terrafirma is all about case-by-case conservation permanence and sensible risk management.

When claims come in, the Terrafirma claims committee reviews the claims to determine if the facts are covered under the Terrafirma conservation defense liability insurance policy or under another policy. The claims committee is careful about protecting member assets while providing fair and accurate coverage. If the facts are covered, then the land trust pays the first $5000 in costs and Terrafirma pays the rest of the covered costs up to a $500,000 limit. Coverage includes all experts such as foresters, biologist, engineers, site specialists, geologists as well as attorneys, mediators, negotiators and related out of pocket costs. Currently, Terrafirma has paid or is in the process of paying over $18,000 in claimed expenses with more invoices pending.  One covered claim has been successfully resolved; five of the seven active claims are in court in various stages of motions and discovery proceedings with the other two in settlement discussions.

Terrafirma is benefiting land trusts from around the country.  Terrafirma covered claims so far  come from the Southeast, West, Midwest, and New England. Overall claims trends so far fall into these categories:

  1. Political disputes where successor landowners demand CE rescission
  2. Tax credit dispute where grantor- landowner demands CE rescission
  3. Successor owner challenges to land trust CE enforcement and monitoring rights
  4. Trespass on land trust owned preserve or on CE land including neighbors and government agencies
  5. Prohibited vegetation removal and earth moving by successor owners with claims that CE permitted the activities or that the land trust approved them
  6. Prohibited roads and structures and third party trash dumping including transient camps
  7. Technical record title issues including legal descriptions, holding entity transfers, family separation disputes, boundary disputes by neighbors and other title clouding issues

Terrafirma has a goal of prompt, efficient, and effective resolution of all claims. To help with this, Terrafirma encourages an early exchange of views in order to identify pertinent issues and outline the most efficient and effective course of action available to resolve the claim and uphold conservation permanence. At the same time, Terrafirma has protocols in place to preserve confidentiality. Terrafirma does not discuss specific identifiable case details outside of the claims committee process.
The next Terrafirma enrollment opportunity starts December 1, 2014 so if your land trust is not insured yet as a safety net for your conservation portfolio, start looking at joining the 453 land trusts currently insured covering over 6.7 million acres of conservation land in 46 states and the District of Columbia. Want to talk about any aspect of your land trust risk management planning and insurance portfolio? Call or write to Leslie Ratley-Beach (802-262-6051) or Lorri Barrett (202-800-2219) any time. They are happy to help.

View insurance policy for coverage »

View claims committee bios »

Visit the Terrafirma website »

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Support from land trusts

Christian Freitag, attorney-at-law and executive director at Sycamore Land Trust (IN), says "I view Conservation Defense Insurance as another step the land trust community is taking to keep our promises. We claim that we will help people protect their land in perpetuity. With this program, the public can be more confident than ever that we take that commitment seriously."


Greg Gamble, executive director at Ojai Valley Land Conservancy (CA), says that "this is one of the most helpful things that the Land Trust Alliance could attempt for its members, and I have greatly appreciated the professional, thoughtful, fair and inclusive process that you have led."


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