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Orillia’s legal community has big environmental impact

Support from the legal community helps the Conservancy to secure wild lands

When you think of sectors of the community which are dedicated to helping preserve some of the natural beauty of the region, lawyers probably don’t jump to mind.

The general public has specific notions about those dedicated to environmental causes, and those notions don’t usually include suits and briefcases.

But Orillia’s legal community has made a huge contribution to the effectiveness of The Couchiching Conservancy since it was formed 20 years ago.

As a land trust, the conservancy spends a great deal of time dealing with real estate, and as anyone who has ever purchased a house will tell you, there are a few legal details to work out with every transaction. The conservancy protects land in a variety of ways: sometimes it is donated to us by people who want to make sure it is safe forever; sometimes we raise funds to purchase specific parcels of land that are important to our long-term strategy; sometimes we enter into conservation easement agreements which are registered on the title of a property so that it will be protected even if it is sold. In each case, we require legal guidance to make sure things are done properly.

Such legal assistance can be costly, and legal fees are often a major expense for land trusts across Canada. But the legal community has collectively stepped up to the plate for us here in Orillia. Several legal firms regularly assist the conservancy in a variety of ways to offset the cost of protecting natural wild lands.

Were it added up, this pro-bono work would count for tens, perhaps hundreds of thousands of dollars over time. By contributing their expertise, these local firms have made it possible for the conservancy to focus resources that would have otherwise paid for legal work on our primary mission — the protection and care of the land. Called ‘in-kind’ donations of expertise, these contributions also help us attract funding for various projects, so there is a real ripple effect that just keeps giving.

Local law firms make up a substantial part of a bigger business community which throws its support behind the conservancy. Our corporate partnership program is supported by local businesses which provide both cash contributions to our organization along with ‘in-kind’ donations. The list is diverse and many different business sectors are represented there. They all share a basic understanding that the forests, lakes, rivers, wetlands and grasslands in the region are a big part of this wonderful place we call home. A healthy home is good for business in a host of ways.

As corporate citizens, particularly when it comes to being part of positive action for the environment, Orillia’s legal community should take a bow.

Written by Mark Bisset, Executive Director of the Couchiching Conservancy.