Boreal Wildlands, ON (Photo by NCC)

Boreal Wildlands, ON (Photo by NCC)

Big, bold and boreal

April 22, 2022
Toronto, ON

 

Launching the largest single private conservation project in Canadian history

The Nature Conservancy of Canada (NCC) celebrates Earth Day by announcing a bold campaign to protect nearly 1,500 square kilometres of boreal forest in Northern Ontario. It is the largest single private conservation project ever undertaken in Canada. The Boreal Wildlands project is located near Hearst. Once complete, it will encompass an area twice the size of the city of Toronto.

Impact

The twin crises of rapid biodiversity loss and climate change demand we do more to protect nature, faster. With Boreal Wildlands, NCC is accelerating conservation at an unprecedented pace and scale.

Boreal Wildlands will protect forests in an area often referred to as the lungs of the planet, along with peatlands that absorb and store greenhouse gas emissions. The project also shelters natural corridors that provide refuge for species at risk, including threatened woodland caribou. Other large mammals, such as lynx, black bear, wolf and moose, roam freely through the project area. Situated within the boreal forest — North America’s bird nursery — the Boreal Wildlands provides nesting, breeding and migratory stopover habitat for many bird species. This includes Canada warbler and olive-sided flycatcher, both of which are threatened.

The project harbours more than 100 lakes and 1,300 kilometres of rivers, streams and shoreline, all of which contributes to freshwater quality and fish habitat in Ontario’s north.

Innovation

Conservation here has global impact. Boreal Wildlands, with its wealth of forests and deep peatlands, absorbs vast amounts of greenhouse gas emissions, stores carbon and delivers direct, positive impact against the climate crisis. The carbon storage on the project is equivalent to the average lifetime emissions of 3 million cars.

NCC is also developing a Boreal Wildlands conservation carbon credit project, which will be the organization’s first in Ontario, and only its second in Canada. The boreal forest in Canada holds more than 10 per cent of the world’s total land-based carbon reserves. Protecting these immense carbon sinks is key to countering climate change. While keeping carbon in the ground, this project will also generate revenue from carbon credit sales to help secure the property itself. Over time this revenue will be used to help accelerate even more conservation projects and provide benefits to communities across the country.

Traditional territory

The project area includes the traditional territories of many Indigenous nations and communities within Treaty 9. It holds great cultural significance for Indigenous communities who have stewarded these lands since time immemorial. NCC is engaging in conversations with several Indigenous communities to determine how the Boreal Wildlands might best support Indigenous people’s rights and interests on the project lands and in the surrounding area. NCC is committed to enabling creative and durable conservation outcomes that honour Indigenous relationships with the land. This includes access for harvesting, a space for knowledge-sharing, joint research projects and supporting Indigenous-led conservation, when invited to do so. The first joint monitoring project for woodland caribou is already underway.

Working together

Significant investments from the Government of Canada’s Natural Heritage Conservation Program (part of Canada’s Nature Fund) and the Government of Ontario, through the Greenlands Conservation Partnership, are making the project possible. These former forestry lands are being sold by Domtar Inc. Domtar has been instrumental in enabling conservation with a generous discount on the appraised value of the land. Together with other generous gifts from individuals and foundations, these contributions have helped NCC to reach a major milestone, with about two-thirds of the $46 million project costs for Boreal Wildlands now raised and 800 square kilometres conserved to date. An additional 650 square kilometres will be added later this year.

Today NCC launches the public campaign to raise the remaining $13 million. NCC invites everyone who shares our conservation vision to donate to help us make history. Learn more at Borealwildlands.ca.

Nature is our ally

In the face of rapid biodiversity loss and climate change, nature is our ally. There is no solution to either challenge without nature conservation. A project such Boreal Wildlands is a testament to NCC’s commitment to accelerate the pace of conservation in Canada. In the past two years alone, the organization has influenced the protection of more than 1 million hectares (nearly twice the size of Prince Edward Island), coast to coast to coast. Over the next few years, NCC will double its impact by mobilizing more people and delivering permanent, large-scale conservation success. When nature thrives, we all thrive.

Find photos and video here.

Quotes

“This Earth Day we are excited to show Canadians that global impact starts with local action. The Boreal Wildlands project is a unique opportunity to make a difference for nature and for people. It is a model for modern conservation. We are grateful to the partners who have inspired us to undertake conservation on this scale. We enthusiastically invite everyone to donate now to help complete the project and make history.” Catherine Grenier, President and CEO of the Nature Conservancy of Canada

“Protecting and conserving nature is one of the most important steps we can take to curb biodiversity loss while also fighting climate change and advancing Indigenous reconciliation. Nature is the glue that binds all these important causes together. This Earth Day we’re celebrating the Boreal Wildlands as the single biggest private conservation project ever in Canada. It’s another major milestone as our government works to conserve 25 percent of lands and oceans in Canada by 2025.” – The Honourable Steven Guilbeault, Minister of Environment and Climate Change

“With help from the Nature Conservancy of Canada, we’re ensuring that wildlife and communities can thrive now and in the future. The Boreal Wildlands provide natural corridors for a variety of wildlife, including species at risk such as the iconic woodland caribou. The area also acts as a carbon sink, helping to slow down the effects of climate change. I wish the Nature Conservancy of Canada good luck as they work to complete this exciting project in Northern Ontario.” – Marc G. Serré, Member of Parliament for Nickel Belt and Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Official Languages

“I am extremely proud of the work we’ve done alongside the Nature Conservancy of Canada and its partners to safeguard natural areas and protect our province’s vital resources, while also providing more spaces for people to enjoy. Our government’s investment in this project — the single largest private conservation project in the country — will result in the restoration and protection over 1,300 kilometres of rivers and streams, as well as 145,000 hectares of invaluable, carbon-storing peatlands and forests. Our collaborative efforts make it possible to preserve more ecologically important natural areas to conserve the province’s natural diversity and help mitigate and adapt to the effects of climate change.” – David Piccini, Ontario Minister of the Environment, Conservation and Parks

“Domtar is very pleased to announce the long-term partnership we’ve established with the Nature Conservancy Canada. Transferring our ownership of 1,450 square kilometres of boreal forest to NCC at a price discounted from the appraised value will allow NCC to continue its work in conservation and science-based research. This large tract of Canadian boreal forestland is recognized for its ecosystems, and abundant wildlife and studies will be conducted to share results with the public.” – Rob Melton, Senior Vice President, Pulp and Paper Commercial, Business Paper Sales, Domtar Inc.

“As the stewards of our traditional territory, Constance Lake First Nation looks to preserve and protect lands and resources to ensure their sustainable use for current and future generations. We take an open, responsible and holistic approach on all work we do while respecting history and culture and asserting Constance Lake First Nation’s rights and title. We are happy to be working with the Nature Conservancy of Canada to conserve and protect these lands.” – Wayne Neegan, Councillor, Constance Lake First Nation

“Wahkohtowin Development is wholly owned by three First Nations that are focused on revitalizing the cultural and governance responsibilities in the nishnawbe (people) aski (land) relationship. This conservation project stands to be transformational as the Nature Conservancy of Canada is committed to the inclusion of First Nations to share in the conservation, benefit and stewardship opportunities associated with these lands. We look forward to opportunities to collaborate in this large and exciting project in our collective homelands in the boreal.” – David Flood, General Manager, Wahkohtowin Development GP Inc.

“Hearst Forest Management Inc. (HFMI) is dedicated to sustainable forest management for the benefit of the Hearst area communities located on Treaty 9 territory. HFMI brings together multiple voices and perspectives to protect the forest’s critical ecological functions, while supporting the production of sustainably sourced forest products. The Boreal Wildlands project represents a significant conservation initiative, adding to existing protected areas on the landscape. We look forward to working with the Nature Conservancy of Canada as they join forest communities collectively dedicated to realizing the full value of the healthy forest we call home.”  Desneiges Larose, General Manager, Hearst Forest Management Inc.

About

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 people together to conserve and restore more than 15 million hectares.

The Government of Canada’s Natural Heritage Conservation Program is a unique public-private partnership to support new protected and conserved areas by securing private lands and private interests in lands. The program is managed by the Nature Conservancy of Canada. Federal funds invested in the program are matched with contributions raised by NCC and its partners, Ducks Unlimited Canada and the country’s land trust community.

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 $50 million will be invested over four years, including $20 million from the Province of Ontario and another $30 million from other sources, such as individual donations and foundation support through the NCC and the Ontario Land Trust Alliance and other levels of government.

Learn More
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Ontario Region

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National Media Relations Director
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