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Conservation organization lays off 10% of staff across properties spanning Massachusetts

The Trustees of Reservations lodge at the Notchview property in Windsor, Mass.
Carrie Healy
/
NEPM
The Trustees of Reservations lodge at the Notchview property in Windsor, Mass.

The Trustees of Reservations layed off one western Mass employee along with 29 others from across the state this week.

In an email, The Trustees CEO Katie Theoharides told employees the decision was difficult but necessary to reducing an ongoing multimillion dollar structural deficit. She pointed to several contributing factors that led to the 10% workforce reduction. Like many businesses and organizations, the effects of significant global inflation, and high labor and supply chain costs contributed to the unsustainable debt load.

Mary Detloff, director of public relations for The Trustees, said in western Massachusetts, “Notchview remains an extremely popular property. You know, during the pandemic, when the public needed us the most [to] get outdoors and get away from being locked up during quarantines and lockdowns, we rose to the occasion.”

During the COVID-19 pandemic, Notchview in Windsor, Mass., offered people the ability to get outside and go Nordic skiing and snowshoeing, while remaining socially distanced from one another. The property is open to hiking, walking, birding, and other outdoor pursuits during warmer months.

Detloff said the organization significantly increased programing across the state during the pandemic. That led to an increase in operational revenue, but, Detloff said, “We also saw huge increases in expenses. And inflation hit us hard. The cost of supplies, and supply chain issues… I mean, all of those things hit us really hard. So, while our operating revenue went up, our expenses far outpaced that.”

In her layoff email to employees, Theoharides writes: “We ramped up programming and hiring to meet this critical need. And while there is still a great need for our mission to protect special places and connect people to those special places, the operating model we built is not sustainable.”

Moving forward, Detloff said, the Trustees will scale back operations in some key areas.

"I think you're really going to see the Trustees focusing in on our core mission which is protecting and preserving these special places across the state of Massachusetts and getting people, both residents and visitors to the state, to come to these properties and enjoy these beautiful scenic vistas or these historic properties, like Naumkeag, that we own," she said.

Naumkeag, the 44-room, Shingle Style country house designed principally by Stanford White of McKim, Mead & White, and constructed in 1885 and 1886.
Peter E
/
Creative Commons / flickr.com/photos/pmeimon
Naumkeag, the 44-room, Shingle Style country house designed principally by Stanford White of McKim, Mead & White, and constructed in 1885 and 1886.

That’s the 48-acre Gilded Age estate in Stockbridge, gifted to The Trustees in the mid-twentieth century. The shingle-style summer retreat was originally owned by the U.S. Ambassador to Great Britain, and prominent New York attorney Joseph Choate.

The non-profit will scale back operations in specific areas with the aim of addressing the deficit and putting The Trustees on course for what Theoharides characterizes as “a sustainable future.”

The reorganization will create regional leadership for The Trustees and rely heavily on partnership with the communities they serve.

Theoharides told employees the organization “will continue to be a preeminent conservation organization in New England. We will continue to be leaders in land conservation, builders of climate resiliency and climate change mitigation initiatives, and great stewards of the special places entrusted to our care.”

She added that there are no plans for additional layoffs.

Carrie Healy hosts the local broadcast of "Morning Edition" at NEPM. She also hosts the station’s weekly government and politics segment “Beacon Hill In 5” for broadcast radio and podcast syndication.

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