Members meet up for online AGM
At our 39th AGM, the Trust shared last year’s successes and achievements with Members and gave them a glimpse of exciting things to come.
Around 100 Members from far (Tarbes in the French Pyrenees) and near (Great Bookham in Surrey) – joined us online, on Saturday 11 June, to hear the management team and Trustees (pictured above) talk about the opportunities and challenges faced by the John Muir Trust.
Chief Executive David Balharry said that we are investing heavily in an exciting future, but there are still challenges ahead. There are now many shades of green: sustainability, biodiversity, carbon, wild. What does wild mean? Where does the John Muir Trust fit in? What is our shade of green?
John Muir Trust is a conservation charity dedicated to wild places where nature, people and communities have the freedom to thrive. We now define wild as having three fundamental freedoms: freedom for nature to repair itself, freedom for people to enjoy the benefits and freedom for communities to thrive.
David explained that our strategic plan - to be a leading UK advocate for wild places - sets out a wider scope of ambition and we have to target our resources.
Director of Policy Mike Daniels talked about how we are protecting wild places by responding to consultations across England, Scotland and Wales and how we are advocating for wild places in a relevant way and meeting with politicians. He also talked about how we plan to maximise our impact by raising awareness, getting people to connect, and then motivating them to take action for wild places.
Director of Development and Communications Kevin Lelland talked about trends for allocating expenditure to our five strategic objectives as well as areas of development that are currently being considered by Trustees - taking on the management of the John Muir Way, working with a community programme in Coventry and developing Strathaird and the old Kilmarie Hatchery on Skye.
Trustee Jane Smallman, Vice Chair of the Trust, Chaired our 39th Annual General Meeting. She thanked Members, supporters and staff for the progress we have made since moving out of lockdown, before discussing the new strategic plan, introducing the new Regional Delivery Areas and mentioning an increase in staff headcount to almost 60 people.
She covered the strategic acquisition of the Kilmarie Hatchery at Strathaird on Skye, which has opened up a development opportunity on non-crofted land. She thanked previous Chair Dave Gibson for his work at the Trust and she confirmed that the error in reporting the 2021 Trustee election results was an isolated incident and that the Trust has agreed compensation with Civica Election Services.
Jane concluded by reassuring Members that the Trust’s financial affairs are in a healthy position. We are able to invest in out new strategic plan by building on solid foundations, diversifying and improving the way we generate income.
Convenor of the Finance Committee Jim Gibson said 2021 had been a better year than expected. There were challenges and uncertainties because of Covid-19, but we are in a strong position to face them thanks to the support of our Members. Summarising the 2021 budget, Lisa Branter said that free reserves at the end of the year were strong and will enable us to increase expenditure to deliver the ambitious strategic plan targets approved by Trustees.
As returning officer, David Balharry welcomed new and returning Trustees: Mark Aitken, John Finney, Jim Sloane, Sheila Wren and Richard Eastmond were elected. He also thanked the Trustees who were demitting office – Chris Loynes, Dave Gibson - and remembered Phil Graves who died early this year – for their valued services.
Throughout the meeting, Members had the chance to ask the management team and Trustees questions. Topics ranged from deer management progress and cooperating with the Wildlife Trusts, to our intent to fence the Gleann Mòr side of Schiehallion.
Jane Smallman closed the meeting by thanking everyone who attended and for their interesting comments and questions. She also thanked the staff for their input and preparation which helped the meeting run smoothly, and wished everyone a good summer.