Boreal Wildlands, ON (Photo by NCC)

Boreal Wildlands, ON (Photo by NCC)

People ready to do more, faster, to protect nature

October 13, 2022
Toronto, ON


In an unprecedented response, supporters from around the world have rallied to protect nature. Hundreds of thousands of people came together in just five months to beat the deadline and protect an area of globally significant forest and wetlands in Northern Ontario — Boreal Wildlands, the largest private conservation project ever in Canada. They put nature first, mobilizing to raise funds to close the $46-million project in record time.

This is the scale and pace that we now have to work at to counter the threats to our natural world: rapid biodiversity loss and the negative impacts of climate change.

The impact of the Boreal Wildlands is impressive. At nearly 1,500 square kilometres, or twice the size of Toronto, the project harbours more than 100 lakes and 1,300 kilometres of rivers, streams and shoreline. Its natural corridors are home to species at risk, including threatened woodland caribou. It provides a nursery for breeding songbirds, including the threatened Canada warbler and olive-sided flycatcher.

The forests and wetlands, including deep peatlands, here act as carbon sinks, which absorb vast amounts of greenhouse gas emissions and store carbon — the equivalent to the average lifetime emissions of three million vehicles. And the Nature Conservancy of Canada’s (NCC) innovative conservation finance program will leverage certified carbon credits to attract more private capital investment supporting critical conservation work across right across Canada.

International and individual support key to conservation

More than 330,000 supporters embraced the Boreal Wildlands project. Hundreds of generous individuals, companies and private foundations donated to help make history and save the Boreal Wildlands. Domtar Inc., previous owner of the area, was instrumental in enabling its conservation with a generous discount on the appraised value of the land. As catalysts for the project, Yardi, the Wyss Foundation, the Lostand Foundation and the Bobolink Foundation’s leadership gifts propelled the fundraising campaign to its goal.

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, have made this project possible.

This December, the world will gather in Montreal for a global summit on nature (COP15), and to set new, crucial goals for a nature-positive world. The need has never been more urgent. Boreal Wildlands is an example of the whole-of-society approach and scale needed now to transform our planet.

Engaging with Indigenous communities

The project area includes the traditional territories of many Indigenous communities within Treaty 9. It holds great cultural significance for people who have stewarded these lands since time immemorial. NCC is engaging with communities to determine how they wish to connect with the lands and the surrounding area, and how this project can benefit them. The first joint monitoring project for woodland caribou with Constance Lake First Nation is already underway As we strive to work as allies with Indigenous communities, we will explore access for harvesting, a space for knowledge-sharing, engage in joint research projects and support Indigenous-led conservation, when invited to do so.


Boreal Wildlands is just one example of the positive change that results when we work together for a common goal. Local communities, partners and supporters came together in a few short months to make this happen — an unprecedented mobilization for the sake of our most important asset, nature. It’s encouraging to see people taking action on this and similar projects to protect more of nature, faster. Accelerating the pace of conservation is the right thing to do, because when nature thrives, we all thrive. — Catherine Grenier, President and CEO, Nature Conservancy of Canada

“The rapid response from people to protect the largest private conservation project in Canada’s history shows us the huge interest in protecting nature in Canada. This was a big collective effort and our Government’s contribution of approximately $18 million was just one piece of the puzzle. As the world prepares to gather in Montreal for COP 15 to set ambitious new targets to halt and reverse the loss of nature, this initiative also reminds us of how conservation targets can only be achieved with meaningful engagement of local Indigenous communities, in the spirit of reconciliation. The Boreal Wildlands project serves as an excellent example of how Canadians, in consultation with Indigenous Peoples, can work together to help nature thrive once again.” — The Honourable Steven Guilbeault, Minister of Environment and Climate Change

“Conserving and safeguarding our natural environment is the single most important step we can take to ensure the future of Ontario’s biodiversity and to help mitigate and adapt to the effects of climate change. Through the Greenlands Conservation Partnership, the Government of Ontario is proud to have supported this incredible conservation project — at more than twice the size of the city of Toronto, Boreal Wildlands is the largest private project of its kind in Canada. Through partnerships, we are continuing to help ensure the province’s natural areas remain a home for wildlife, a haven for recreation and a vital resource that cleans the air we breathe and the water we drink.” — The Honourable David Piccini, Ontario Minister of Environment, Conservation and Parks

“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 the 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.

“Domtar is proud of its partnership with the Nature Conservancy Canada in the conservation of Ontario’s Boreal Wildlands, and we congratulate them on their successful funding campaign. The impressive donor support NCC received from both the public and private sectors demonstrates Canada’s commitment to protecting boreal biodiversity, watersheds, local communities and promoting natural carbon storage and sequestration.” Rob Melton, Senior Vice President, Pulp and Paper Commercial, Business Paper Sales, Domtar Inc.

“Mere months before nations meet in Montreal to finalize a global plan to safeguard nature, Canada continues to lead by example. Conserving the Boreal Wildlands provides globally significant protections to carbon-rich and wildlife-rich boreal forests and moves Canada even closer to meeting its goal to protect 25 percent of Canadian lands by 2025 en route to 30 percent by 2030.” — Molly McUsic, President, Wyss Foundation

“Yardi is deeply committed to the preservation of irreplaceable habitats, including the Boreal Wildlands, as threats from climate change increase. It has been an honour to be part of the successful efforts of the Nature Conservancy of Canada to quickly mobilize public awareness, financial support and protection of these vital lands. We look forward to continuing to support global projects that preserve natural resources for perpetuity.” — Peter Altobelli, Vice President and General Manager, Yardi Canada Ltd.


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. To learn more, visit natureconservancy.ca.

The Government of Canada’s Natural Heritage Conservation Program (NHCP) 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 (NCC). 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.

Photo and video assets can be found here.

Additional information about NCC’s Boreal Wildlands project is in the backgrounder.

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Media Contact:

Andrew Holland
National Media Relations Director
Nature Conservancy of Canada
C: (506) 260-0469

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