North Coast Chapter - CNPS

President's Corner

by John McRae

When I became president I decided that I’d attend a state board meeting or two, something our chapter has shied away from in the recent past. After attending my first board meeting in March I could see why we weren’t regulars at these meetings. Approximately 45 to 55 people attend the state board meetings. All discussion is open, it covers a range of topics and it lasts a full day. I must admit I didn’t enjoy it. I’m not a meeting person. I thought, that’s it. I’ve done a state board meeting and I don’t intend to do another. But the fickle finger of fate jabbed me sharply in a different direction when it was announced that Mark Skinner, one of our two botanists, was being let go because of financial problems at the state level and it became apparent that the May board meeting would be a very important one.

Some members have actually quit the Society because of these recent events and it is important at this point to allay rumors and keep you informed as to what the Society is doing to get back on track. The May board meeting was well attended, probably a record in terms of Chapter attendance. It was generally agreed that the current fiscal crisis is one of the most serious events the Society has faced in its 31 year history and the termination of Mark Skinner one of the most divisive issues to arise in as many years.

Several hours of discussion were devoted to the lay off of Mark Skinner and the future direction of the Rare Plant Program. The lay off of Mark was an agonizing one for the Executive Council who had no intention of slighting Mark. They hold him in the highest regard. It was not done because of any change in direction for the rare plant program. It was done solely to avoid the disaster that would have resulted from a full blown financial crisis at years end. Mark’s absence leaves a void. CNPS Botanist Dave Tibor and the Rare Plant Scientific Advisory Council, composed of highly credentialed plant science professionals, will attempt to take up the slack by providing the scientific expertise needed to persuade state and federal governments to strengthen laws to protect California’s rare flora.

The Finance Committee presented a report on their efforts to upgrade CNPS’s financial reporting and operations procedures. In the simplest of terms, at least as I understood it, CNPS’s financial crisis occurred because as they grew from a small grass-roots organization into a relatively complex small business they retained an informal financial reporting system that mixed Chapter and State funds and restricted funds and created the illusion that adequate funds were available for adding projects, publications and paid staff and didn’t allow the level of oversight needed to see an approaching train wreck. The Financial Upgrade Project, presented in a 27 page memo, seeks to provide state of the art financial reporting and operations procedures to insure we don’t slip into the red again and it has set a goal of building a 3 month operations reserve. The Finance Committee will present a report to the Board prior to the December meeting that should indicate if their efforts are making headway.

This is a quick synopsis of two important issues dealt with at the May board meeting that may be of interest to those of you who have heard rumors and want to know more about what is now occurring at the State level. I encourage you to read the most recent CNPS Bulletin (Vol. 26, No. 3), particularly the items titled “Executive Director’s Report”, RPSAC looks at the Rare Plant Program”, “Rare Plant Program Report Program Reorganization” and the President’s Message if you care to find out more about these developments within the Society. After two board meetings, my impression is that the Society is in very capable hands and these difficult times will pass. In the mean time I’m sorely tempted to go to the September board meeting to find out what’s going to happen next.

Lastly, I regret to inform you that George Clark, Society President, passed away a week after the May board meeting. I realize many of you don’t know George. I only met him briefly at the two meetings I attended. George impressed me a great deal, especially when he approached me at the end of the last meeting to ask me what I thought of it. He received many letters concerning the lay off of Mark Skinner and managed to remember mine. After spending hours discussing the lay off during the meeting he made a point of coming to me to discuss my concerns further. I sat across from him at dinner that night and felt fortunate that the Society had someone like him who was willing to volunteer so much of his time because he cared so much about CNPS, what it does, and the people in it. He will be missed. He will be hard to replace.

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California Native Plant Society - North Coast Chapter
P.O. Box 1067 Arcata, CA 95518-1067
Last updated February 4, 1997