Protected areas in Frontenac Arch area expanded, ensuring unfragmented habitat for wildlife

February 27, 2024
Kingston, ON


Nature Conservancy of Canada celebrates World Wildlife Day by expanding network of existing conservation lands in eastern Ontario

Songbirds, snakes, turtles and waterfowl are just a few of the many types of wildlife that have more room to thrive in the Frontenac Arch region, thanks to two newly protected nature reserves announced today by the Nature Conservancy of Canada (NCC) in celebration of World Wildlife Day this Sunday.

The 111 hectares that are now permanently protected are within a vast natural corridor that supports the survival and resiliency of many plants and animals. By expanding on the existing network of lands conserved by NCC and conservation partners, these projects help wildlife in the area have more space to feed, nest, breed, move and thrive.

The nature reserves are each located next to existing conservation lands near Sydenham and Elgin, Ontario, northwest of Kingston.

Blue Lake nature reserve, adjacent to the Gould Lake Conservation Area and near Frontenac Provincial Park, is a picturesque 35-hectare site with over 1.4 kilometres of shoreline on Gould and Blue lakes. It features intact deciduous forests, wetlands and the pristine Blue Lake, creating a rich mosaic of habitats that support at-risk species like cerulean warbler, several species of snake and turtle, and more. The property’s wetlands provide excellent conditions for beaver and waterfowl, such as great blue heron, wood duck, common loon, hooded and common merganser and others.

Meanwhile, NCC’s Hawkridge Nature Reserve, near Elgin, has been expanded through the protection of an additional 76 hectares immediately north of the property. The newly conserved section contains forests, marsh and Provincially Significant Wetlands teeming with waterfowl and other birds, turtles and amphibians, such as eastern wood-pewee and eastern musk turtle. An active and isolated “heronry” is also on site, meaning that heron pairs are breeding, nesting and rearing young within the site’s rich aquatic habitats.

The high-quality forest, lake and wetland habitats of the Frontenac Arch region, with connectivity to the surrounding forest matrix and protected areas, are part of an important north-south linkage in eastern North America called the Algonquin to Adirondacks wildlife corridor. This unique area overlaps between the forests of the Canadian Shield and the southern Carolinian forests of the United States and fosters a diversity of plant, insect and animal species. The Arch serves as a funnel for migrating birds, bats and insects, as well as animals with large home ranges, such as black bear, moose and eastern wolf. Habitat fragmentation poses the greatest threat to the Frontenac Arch; projects like Blue Lake and the Hawkridge expansion help protect large blocks of habitat, so that species that live there can continue to move and thrive.      

These land purchases were made possible in part by the Government of Canada, through the Natural Heritage Conservation Program, part of Canada’s Nature Fund, the Government of Ontario, through the Greenlands Conservation Partnership Program. We thank the many private donors who supported these projects.

The expansion of protected lands at the Hawkridge and Blue Lake nature reserves showcases how NCC is accelerating the pace of conservation in Canada. In the face of rapid biodiversity loss and climate change, nature is our ally. There is no solution to either without nature conservation. When nature thrives, we all thrive.


“The Frontenac Arch is a critical habitat linkage of forests, wetlands and lakes. The Nature Conservancy of Canada is thrilled to observe World Wildlife Day by announcing the successful expansion of existing conservation lands in the Frontenac Arch through today’s announcement of the Blue Lake and Hawkridge projects. These sites will continue to support an incredible array of biodiversity and provide us with a chance to mitigate some of the threats that these species face, such as habitat fragmentation and pressure from development.” – Rob McRae, Program Director – Eastern Ontario, Nature Conservancy of Canad

“By collaborating with partners like the Nature Conservancy of Canada, we are working to protect the Frontenac Arch region in Ontario. The conservation of forest and marsh habitats will expand a wildlife corridor while helping to protect species at risk and a Provincially Significant Wetland. As we prepare to celebrate World Wildlife Day on March 3, the Natural Heritage Conservation Program continues to protect essential habitats for wildlife across the country. This is one of the ways the Government of Canada is making progress toward its goal of conserving 30 percent of land and water in Canada by 2030.” – The Honourable Steven Guilbeault, Minister of Environment and Climate Change

"Investing in conservation projects in the Frontenac Arch is an important way in which we're protecting Ontario's biodiversity, including serveral species at risk that make their homes in this region. With the support of our government's Greenlands Conservation Partnership program, NCC will be able to add nearly 275 acres (111 hectares) of protected forests and wetlands - the equivalent of more than 200 football fields." – Andrea Khanjin, Minister of the Environment, Conservation and Parks.


  • Numerous species at risk are supported by these conservation projects, including cerulean warbler (endangered), gray ratsnake (threatened), eastern wood-pewee (special concern) and eastern musk turtle (special concern). Numerous turtle and bird species at risk, as well as plant species at risk, are also found on-site, such as black ash tree (threatened).
  • The Algonquin to Adirondacks region is a critical link for wildlife in eastern North America. It is the meeting point of major forest systems from surrounding parts of North America. The mosaic of habitats includes large expanses of forest as well as numerous lakes, wetlands and rocky outcrops.  


The Nature Conservancy of Canada (NCC) is the country’s unifying force for nature. NCC seeks solutions to the twin crises of rapid biodiversity loss and climate change through large-scale, permanent land conservation. As a trusted partner, NCC works with people, communities, businesses and government to protect and care for our country’s most important natural areas. Since 1962, NCC has brought Canadians together to conserve and restore more than 15 million hectares.

The Government of Canada’s Natural Heritage Conservation Program (NHCP) is a unique partnership that supports the creation and recognition of protected and conserved areas through the acquisition of private land and private interest in land. To date, the Government of Canada has invested more than $470 million in the Program, which has been matched with more than $982 million in contributions raised by Nature Conservancy of Canada, Ducks Unlimited Canada and the country’s land trust community leading to the protection and conservation of nearly 800,000 hectares of ecologically sensitive lands.

The Greenlands Conservation Partnership helps conserve ecologically important natural areas and protect wetlands, grasslands and forests that help mitigate the effects of climate change. Through the Greenlands Conservation Partnership, a total of $38 million has been invested to date by the Ontario Government. Additional match funds are raised from other sources, such as individual donations and foundation support through NCC and the Ontario Land Trust Alliance, and other levels of government. Since 2020, the Greenlands Conservation Partnership has protected over 420,000 acres of land of ecological importance across Ontario – equivalent to more than two and a half times the footprint of the City of Toronto. 

Find photos here.

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Media Contact:

Brianne Curry
Communications Manager, Ontario
C: 519-520-1340

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