COVID-19 Update – by World Land Trust CEO, Catherine Barnard.
I was delighted to see that the UK Chancellor of the Exchequer has pledged £750m to support charities during the coronavirus pandemic. This is a welcome development, but as the Association of Chief Executives of Voluntary Organisations (ACEVO), and the NCVO (an umbrella body representing UK voluntary sector) both note, this is only part of the support needed, and many charities will still end up having to close. No charity has the right to exist, but everyone has the right to access the incredible work that charities provide. Whether that is social or medical care in the UK, or safeguarding our natural world to fight the climate crisis and provide the benefits of the “natural health service” that is nature. The fact that some charities are already closing or having to furlough significant numbers of staff should be a matter of concern to all of us.
World Land Trust is fortunate to have an incredible group of people and companies supporting us. This loyal and generous support has enabled us to have an incredible impact over the last thirty years, such as the 881,000 acres that have been purchased and protected, and the 49 rangers we funded in 2019 to patrol and protect these special places. I would like to extend my personal thanks to each and every one of you that donates to our cause: we can only do this thanks to your generosity.
WLT entered this pandemic lockdown with healthy finances, and we do not depend so heavily on funding from events or trading as some other charities. However, we are certainly not immune to the impacts of the coronavirus on people’s ability to donate and do not take our supporters for granted. So thanks to the flexibility of our team we are continuing to work more or less as normal to protect land to save nature, with our staff working from their homes, and have thankfully only been forced (with heavy heart) to furlough one staff member due to our office closure. I am confident that with careful management WLT will continue to thrive after this pandemic has passed. But we are having to constantly review our work as we are aware that our ability to have the impact we had been planning in 2020 is now more challenging.
Our partners are also in varying degrees of lockdown, and WLT has prioritised supporting the salaries of critical field staff and, most importantly, the rangers who are still protecting our partners’ reserves. This is vital work, as is the ability of our partners to respond to the changing situation they now find themselves in. This is why our Keepers of the Wild programme and Action Fund are so important at times like this; as they enable WLT to respond quickly to support our partners through these difficult times.
COVID-19 has reminded us of the fragility of the human species, how interconnected we are with nature, and how we ignore that dependency at our peril. When the world emerges from this pandemic, I hope that we will reconsider, and support, our relationship with nature with the vigour shown in responding to COVID-19. Until then WLT will continue to protect land to protect species, and by doing so help fight the climate crisis and support people’s lives. If you are able to do so then please support us in this vital work, so that collectively we can continue to help play our part towards a more equitable and sustainable world.