Don’t just plan there, do something!

(In this June 24, 2015 presentation, prepared by Deb Ferens and Dave Steen, GIA asked Trust Council to transform its expensive and cumbersome strategic planning process. See story above for specifics.)

Baseball fans know that pitchers don’t win because of their wind-ups. Success rides on delivery.

GIA is concerned that your wind-up — specifically, your strategic planning — could get so exhaustively complicated that it will mess up your delivery.

GIA is asking hard questions about your strategic planning.

Does it sap trustee energy and time without corresponding gains? Does it give taxpayers good value? Are thick agendas with all those graphs, flow charts and boxes showing who’s doing what with whom when and where really needed? Are you frustrated by its bureaucratic inertia? Its reduced capacity to respond forcefully to the unexpected?

And our big question. Is strategic planning taking your eye off home plate? The Trust mandate?

As you begin anew, GIA asks you to craft a 4-year strategic plan that is clear, robust and based on the affirmative duties to manage the Trust Area natural environment for the benefit of present and future generations.

GIA saw that past strategic plans:

– were complex, dense, and mired in busy-ness, taking up too much valuable Trustee time at council meetings.

– served operational/administrative needs more than the Trust’s purpose.

– were long grocery lists of issues that tugged in all directions, scattering energy stores and stretching human and financial resources.

– and largely disengaged citizens and failed to gain their enthusiastic support.

GIA has no quarrel with strategic planning. Our concern is that preoccupation with process can obscure purpose. How much breaking down by area and priority is needed when the Trust Act says the whole Trust Area is a biodiversity priority. You are trustees of the natural environment. The legislation, courts, GIA’s expert legal opinion, and the majority of islanders and British Columbians confirm that. So the primary goals, tactics and actions of a strategic plan must be to defend it against injury and restore what is damaged.

Our communities are vulnerable to climate change, natural hazards and development activities that carve up, degrade, chop down, uproot and pave over natural spaces and put an amazing biodiversity at risk. Your strategic plan could easily focus on ecological protection alone and still keep you busy and productive. Adding industry, commerce, housing and density and all the attendant landscaping, services and infrastructure is at the expense of the natural environment. One committee’s goal to improve the economy and reduce our environmental footprint is wishful thinking.

Please cut back on using strategic planning sessions:

To conjure up a new Trust vision. It already exists, the Trust mandate itself.

To consider other governance structures such as municipalities, a Gulf Islands Regional District, or north and south divisions.

To bother too much trying to “improve cooperation and integration with other levels of government” – the same other governments that encourage clear-cutting, tanker traffic, massive expansion of fossil fuel industries, and erosion of farmland.

Resilience strategies that protect a vibrant natural environment, essential to fundamental human development and values, are already part of the Trustee framework. No need to invent more. Devote your human and financial resources to ensure the inalienable right to healthy seashores, ocean waters, tidelands, the forests that cover the islands, the wetlands and streams, seaside cliffs, meadows, and wildlife habitats.

Let other agencies follow the Trust lead – they are going to have to sooner or later – the earth won’t wait, survival of hundreds of species on the brink of extinction can’t wait and our own children depend on us now to deliver the future intact, undiminished and livable.

If a strategic plan can be transformative, simplified and walked back to the Mandate by applying principles of public trust in coastal planning management and decision making, Trust Council can spend a lot more of its time focused on effective governance, have shorter council meetings, devote more time to communicating with islanders.

Our islands are precious gems dotting the Salish Sea, each separate yet linked by the waters that surround them, the beaches and shores that give entry and welcome, the forests that shelter, the land that provides nourishment and abundance to all its inhabitants.

All of us, Trustees and island residents, visitors and neighbouring communities share a duty of care owed to the environment.


GIA received a copy of another response to Islands Trust Council’s draft strategic plan, from former Pender trustee Steve Wright:

To Islands Trustees:

We are approaching the first year of your election as a local trustee. There was
an expectation by many throughout the Trust Area that during this term, Trust
Council would bring about a change within the Trust to make it more relevant,
more effective, and more focused on the mandate.

It is extremely disappointing that the Trust has after 40 years, found itself with so little accomplished in terms of the fulfilling it’s object. Development continues to degrade the environment, ecology, and rural character of the islands. In spite of provincial legislation, the Islands Trust’s efforts and initiatives to work in concert with senior levels of government to achieve the mandate, have come up short or have failed. Local
bylaws are largely ineffective due to the lack of enforcement and loopholes.

The election of Peter Luckham as Chair was to ensure that the status quo would be
continued. Council has to realize that the status quo is not an option anymore.
Looking at the Policy Statement one can find little success in materializing its
objectives. Instead, the Trust has decided to “protect” communities, culture, and
economies, delving into housing issues, ferry fares, and any other issue that
floats by on the newspaper.

Your credibility is becoming laughable. A majority of residents and property owners are doing as they please without regard to the ecology or the environment and in the process urbanizing our islands. There are no differences developing on these “unique and sensitive” islands than anywhere else in Canada.

Your inaction and lack of focus is losing the support from your best friends. Those
who have believed passionately in the mandate feel betrayed and are beginning
to wonder why they continue to support you financially and emotionally.

A prime example for this coming Council Meeting is your Strategic Plan. Does
anyone really believe this? Give us one plausible solution to any of these issues.
What is the Trust planning to do about the loss of sea birds and songbirds? What
can you do to protect bottom fish from recreational over-fishing or the harassment
of Orcas by commercial enterprises? What strategy do you propose to rid the
islands of Norway rats or invasive plants?

The fact is that Council has some incredibly difficult and complicated issues
before it, let alone the political implications. I need to know if you are up to the
task, or whether you should simply admit defeat and pack the tents. Stalling for
more time is not acceptable. You need to make your stand now.

I suggest you throw out the strategic plan for the useless paper it is, define your vision of these islands, determine what you can realistically get done this year, and ask for help from the people who want you to succeed.

Good luck and thanks,

Steve Wright