Haliburton forest, ON (Photo by Kristyn Ferguson/NCC staff)

Haliburton forest, ON (Photo by Kristyn Ferguson/NCC staff)

Ontario forest earns conservation status

April 27, 2023


Haliburton site first of its kind to be recognized in new conservation category

An old-growth forest in Ontario, with trees more than 150 years old, is making history. The Nature Conservancy of Canada (NCC) is pleased to announce, along with owner Haliburton Forest & Wild Life Reserve Ltd. (Haliburton Forest), the first recognized other effective area-based conservation measure (OECM) within a privately owned commercial forest in Canada. It is also the country’s first OECM led by the forestry industry.

The South Freezy Lake old-growth forest has been recognized by both the Governments of Ontario and Canada as conserved and entered into Canada’s Protected and Conserved Areas Database. The database monitors progress toward Canada's target of protecting 30 per cent of its lands and waters by 2030.

The 20-hectare site is surrounded by the sustainably managed forests of Haliburton Forest. Due to its unique ecology and history, the site has been set aside from timber harvesting and other industrial activities for the long term. The area’s old-growth sugar maple, eastern hemlock, American beech and white pine trees will support lasting biodiversity conservation.

The announcement was made at a media availability and property tour involving representatives from NCC and Haliburton Forest managing director Malcolm Cockwell, a registered professional forester. Cockwell also serves as volunteer president of Forests Ontario, the largest tree-planting charity in Canada.

OECMs are an emerging conservation category that received increased attention at the 15th Conference of the Parties (COP15) to the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) in Montreal in December 2022. OECMs provide the same conservation benefits as protected areas but are not managed primarily for the protection of nature. They are internationally recognized for their role in helping address the twin crises of biodiversity loss and climate change.

OECMs can accelerate the pace of conservation by acknowledging and supporting important conservation work already happening in a variety of sectors, and are a critical part of a whole-of-society approach to conservation. Collaborations like the one between NCC and Haliburton Forest are essential in helping Canada meet its commitment of protecting a minimum of 30 per cent of its lands and waters by 2030.


“This partnership is an example of the collaborative commitment required by all sectors to halt and reverse biodiversity loss, and the ongoing and exemplary contributions of the forest industry to conservation. Forestry companies, such as Haliburton Forest, are a critical part of the whole-of-society approach needed for Canada to reach its ambitious conservation targets by 2030. The Nature Conservancy of Canada applauds the vision and leadership of the management team of Haliburton Forest, and we hope this exciting milestone inspires other large landowners, corporations and industries to explore similar initiatives for conservation.” – Kristyn Ferguson, Program Director, Nature Conservancy of Canada in Ontario

"My colleagues and I are grateful for the opportunity to have partnered with the Nature Conservancy Canada over the last few years to accomplish this milestone. Haliburton Forest has a long history of being on the leading edge of sustainable forest management; for example, we were the first in Canada to be certified as sustainable by the Forest Stewardship Council. We are, therefore, proud to continue this legacy by being the first in Canada to establish an OECM within a privately owned commercial forest. While the geographic area represented by the South Freezy Lake old-growth forest may be small in the grand scheme of Haliburton Forest, its ecological significance is immense and we hope its conservation inspires other landowners in the future.” – Malcolm Cockwell, RPF, Managing Director, Haliburton Forest

“Protecting natural areas, including forests, species and local wildlife, is a shared responsibility that we all play a role in supporting. The OECM is an innovative way to support and strengthen our province’s rich biodiversity and conservation of our greenspaces through partnerships between the forest industry and conservation organizations to promote healthy spaces for generations to come.” – David Piccini, Minister of the Environment, Conservation and Parks

“The job of addressing the twin crises of biodiversity loss and climate change is a task that requires everyone to do their part. My thanks and appreciation go to the Nature Conservancy of Canada and the Haliburton Forest management team, for helping Canada achieve this milestone for other effective area based conservation measures. When we work together across all sectors, there’s no end to the possibilities for achieving conservation results in Canada. These efforts are helping us reach our goal to conserve 30 percent of land and inland water by 2030—and in this work, every effort counts.” – The Honourable Steven Guilbeault, Minister of Environment and Climate Change


  • The South Freezy Lake old-growth forest will be monitored on an ongoing basis to ensure the site continues to deliver conservation outcomes. This includes things such as the presence of certain wildlife, forest structure and lack of disturbance. This monitoring will be voluntarily included in Haliburton Forest’s annual Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) audit. FSC is a responsible forestry standard that engages committed landowners and land managers to protect healthy and resilient forests for the long term.
  • An other effective area-based conservation measure (OECM) is a recognition  of an area that is geographically defined and has management practices in place that will continue to deliver sustained conservation benefits for the long term. It differs from a protected area in that its primary purpose is something other than conservation (e.g. forestry, recreation), but is similar in that it delivers long-term biodiversity conservation. These places can be owned and managed by private individuals or organizations, Indigenous and local communities, or governments.

For photos and video, click here.


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 natural areas. Since 1962, NCC has brought Canadians together to conserve and restore more than 15 million hectares.

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Tara King
Communications Director, Ontario
C: 416-937-5079

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