Waves crash on the northwestern Lake Superior coast, ON (Photo by John Anderson)

Waves crash on the northwestern Lake Superior coast, ON (Photo by John Anderson)

Cross-border partnership leads to Great Lakes conservation success

March 29, 2017
Thunder Bay, Ontario


Thanks to the cross-border collaboration of several organizations, the Nature Conservancy of Canada (NCC) has purchased one of the last privately owned, undeveloped shorelines between Duluth, Minnesota, and Thunder Bay, Ontario.  

Known as Big Trout Bay, the property is located just minutes from the international border and 45 minutes from Thunder Bay, on the shores of Lake Superior. Its densely forested land is crucial to several native species, including bald eagle and peregrine falcon, which are assessed as special concern by the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada (COSEWIC). The 1,018-hectare (2,517-acre) property is composed mostly of coastal boreal forest. Nearly half of Canada’s bird species rely on boreal habitat like Big Trout Bay to complete their life cycle, and many of these species migrate throughout the Americas.   

The property also includes 21 kilometres of undeveloped shoreline with towering cliffs, stretches of open bedrock and rugged cobble beach. These shoreline areas are especially important for biodiversity, as they provide varied habitat for species, such as bird’s-eye primrose, lake trout and moose. 

This Nature Conservancy of Canada project was generously supported by funding from the Government of Canada through the Natural Areas Conservation Program, and with the generous partnership of the JA Woollam Foundation, the Margaret A. Cargill Foundation, the Bobolink Foundation, the Rogers Foundation, The Nature Conservancy’s Wisconsin and Minnesota programs, The Conservation Fund, Green Leaf Advisors and many individual donors in both the United States and Canada. 

The Nature Conservancy of Canada has been working to conserve land along Lake Superior’s North Shore for 15 years, and this most recent acquisition brings the total conserved hectares (acres) of protected land that is open to the public for low-impact activities, such as hiking, to 3,557 hectares (8,790 acres).


“This is a massive international undertaking, but when faced with the potential loss of habitat and wildlife on the largest freshwater lake in the world, thinking big is essential. Most importantly, this project gives us hope that the landscapes we love today will be here for others to enjoy tomorrow. It’s an extraordinary opportunity to make substantive and tangible progress on our overall goal of protecting Lake Superior’s North Shore.”

James Duncan, Nature Conservancy of Canada Vice-president, Ontario Region.

“Lake Superior’s Big Trout Bay, McKellar Point and Pine Point represent the last unsecured Great Lakes wilderness on the continent — truly a global gem. After more than 15 years of work personally on this project, I understand the importance of preserving the natural view the Voyageurs saw and, equally as important, the ecosystems that have sustained First Nations for generations.”

Tom Duffus, Midwest Vice-president for The Conservation Fund, which provided bridge financing as well as transactional and fundraising assistance to NCC via its Great Lakes Revolving Fund.

“On behalf of the Hon. Catherine McKenna, Minister of Environment and Climate Change, I want to congratulate the Nature Conservancy of Canada and thank its many Canadian and American partners and donors for helping to make this bi-national initiative possible. The Government of Canada is pleased to support their habitat conservation efforts through the Natural Areas Conservation Program. Working together, we will protect the majestic natural beauty of the North Shore region for generations to come.”

Don Rusnak, Member of Parliament for Thunder Bay—Rainy River

“The Nature Conservancy is proud to support this bi-national effort to protect the Great Lakes. Protection of the land at Big Trout Bay builds on other Great Lakes conservation successes, including St. Martin Island in Lake Michigan and Clough Island in Lake Superior’s St. Louis River Estuary. Working together, we can keep the Great Lakes beautiful, healthy and productive today and for generations to come.”

Mary Jean Huston, Wisconsin Director, The Nature Conservancy


  • With 21 kilometres of pristine coastline, including stretches of open bedrock and cobble beach, the bulk of the Big Trout Bay property is composed of coastal boreal forest.
  • Nearly half of Canada’s bird species rely on boreal habitat like Big Trout Bay to complete their life cycle, and many of these species migrate throughout the Americas.   
  • Big Trout Bay’s cliff outcrop is also an important breeding ground for the peregrine falcon, a COSEWIC-designated species of “special concern,” and one of the many wide-ranging and migrating species that pass through this greater North Shore landscape. 

The Nature Conservancy of Canada is the nation's leading land conservation organization, working to protect our most important natural areas and the species they sustain. Since 1962, NCC and its partners have helped to protect more than 1.1 million hectares (2.8 million acres), coast to coast with more than 74,000 hectares (184,000 acres) in Ontario.

The Government of Canada’s Natural Areas Conservation Program (NACP) is a unique public-private partnership led by the Nature Conservancy of Canada (NCC). To date, $277.5 million has been invested in the NACP by the Government of Canada to secure our natural heritage. Additionally, more than $500 million in matching contributions has been raised by NCC and its partners.

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Media Contact:

Andrew Holland
National Media Relations Director
Office: 1-877-231-4400 | Mobile: 506-260-0469

Dana Kleniewski
Director of Development & Communications
Ontario Region
1-800-465-0029 ext.2246

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