Manitoulin Island. (Photo by Esme Batten)

Manitoulin Island. (Photo by Esme Batten)

Important wetlands on Manitoulin Island and in northwestern Ontario now permanently protected

February 2, 2024
Thunder Bay and Sudbury


Four important wetland sites in Ontario are now permanently protected, marking a significant win for nature this World Wetlands Day. The Nature Conservancy of Canada (NCC) is celebrating the protection of over 940 hectares of lands and waters on Manitoulin Island in Lake Huron, as well as on Lake Superior’s Black Bay Peninsula, near Thunder Bay.

Three newly protected properties on southern Manitoulin Island span more than 750 hectares. The areas boast spectacular wetland, forest, and alvar communities, and support a wide range of species at risk, including least bittern (threatened) and Blanding’s turtle (threatened). These wetlands also provide valuable ecosystem services for people, such as flood control, water filtration and carbon storage. The protection of these lands and waters support NCC’s ongoing conservation efforts across Manitoulin Island. When combined with nearby and adjacent conservation lands that NCC and our partners have already conserved, these three projects bring the existing conservation complex on the Manitoulin Island Archipelago close to 15,030 hectares, or larger than the city of Barrie – the largest contiguous protected area south of the Canadian Shield.

NCC’s 191 hectare Black Bay Peninsula property, located approximately 100 kms east of Thunder Bay, features abundant forested wetlands. This project builds on a network of protected properties within the Black Bay Provincially Significant Wetland Area and helps to sustain species at risk, such as olive-sided flycatcher (special concern).

Wetlands are a conservation priority, as they provide vital habitat for many at-risk turtles, salamanders, snakes, and aquatic insects. Once a prominent natural feature across the Great Lakes region, wetland habitat and biodiversity have been drastically reduced and degraded over the past 200 years, due to drainage and invasive species. NCC and our partners are working to protect and restore wetlands across Ontario.

These projects were made possible in part by the Government of Canada, through the Nature Smart Climate Solutions Fund, and the Government of Ontario, through the Greenlands Conservation Partnership Program. We are also grateful for the generosity of many individual donors and foundations who supported this work.

These projects showcase how NCC is accelerating the pace of conservation in Canada. Over the next few years, NCC will double its impact by mobilizing people and delivering permanent, large-scale conservation. 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 protection of these 191 hectares of forested wetland really bolsters the existing network of protected lands on the Black Bay Peninsula. These protection efforts at the landscape scale help to create large, protected movement corridors for wide-ranging mammals. Coastal wetlands are rare on the north shore of Lake Superior, making the Black Bay Peninsula a special refuge for wildlife like moose, which depend on wetland habitat, especially during calving season.” – Kaitlin Richardson, program director – Northern Ontario, Nature Conservancy of Canada

“On Manitoulin Island we have an incredible opportunity to protect large and intact tracts of land, such as the 753-hectare Manitoulin South Shore properties. Wetlands across these properties feed rivers that meander through diverse forests and alvars; These areas provide habitat for rare and at-risk species, such as Blanding’s turtles, breeding and migratory birds and a stunning array of plants. Many wide-ranging mammals, such a black bears, wolves, and fishers, visit these wetlands for food and water, and they are truly a hub for life.”– Esme Batten, program director – Midwestern Ontario, Nature Conservancy of Canada

“On World Wetlands Day, let’s take a moment to appreciate these beautiful and valuable ecosystems on Manitoulin Island, and across the country, that help clean our water, provide important habitat for wildlife, and store carbon. Canada’s wetlands are globally significant in terms of mitigating the impacts of climate change and protecting biodiversity, and by working with partners like the Nature Conservancy of Canada, we are helping to protect, restore, and enhance these important ecosystems. The Nature Smart Climate Solutions Fund is supporting our progress in our response to climate change and biodiversity loss. Our investments to protect key wetlands and their role in storing carbon also support Canada’s efforts to conserve 30 percent of land, inland water, and oceans by 2030.”  – The Honourable Steven Guilbeault, Minister of Environment and Climate Change

“Conserving the ecology of important natural areas, like these four wetland properties in Northern Ontario, is a special way to mark World Wetlands Day. Through Ontario’s Greenlands Conservation Partnership, our investment in these projects will result in the protection of 2,320 acres (over 940 hectares) of land and water – when combined, this is an area about the size of Presqu’ile Provincial Park. This important work with the Nature Conservancy of Canada will ensure these natural areas can continue to thrive for generations to come.” – Andrea Khanjin, Minister of the Environment, Conservation and Parks


  • Ontario’s wetlands provide critical habitat for species at risk, such as all eight of Ontario’s species of turtle. Habitat loss and fragmentation are the most significant threats to these species.
  • Wetlands provide important and valuable ecosystem services to all of us. Ecosystem services are natural functions of ecosystems that provide direct and indirect economic, cultural and social benefits. For example, carbon is stored and actively sequestered in wetland plants and soils, helping to slow the pace of climate change. Wetlands also aid in flood prevention, improve water quality in local watersheds, and provide recreational opportunities, such as photography or fishing.
  • The estimated annual value of ecosystem benefits provided by Ontario’s wetlands is significant and estimated in the billions, due to the flood mitigation, habitat provision, recreational and water filtration services they provide.   
  • Together with our partners, NCC has protected over 26,100 hectares of land in the Manitoulin Island and Lake Superior natural areas.
  • The southern shores of Manitoulin Island support globally rare alvar and sand dune habitats, which provide habitat for many at-risk species such as pitcher’s thistle, lakeside daisy and Hill’s thistle.
  • Alvars also provide habitat for at-risk birds, such as common nighthawk and rare lichens, such as blushing scale lichen.
  • The Black Bay Peninsula provides habitat for several rare and regionally significant bird species, including olive-sided flycatcher, bald eagle, palm warbler, Le Conte's sparrow and sandhill crane. Peregrine falcon and American white pelican are also documented in the surrounding area.
  • The Black Bay Peninsula is a 50,000 hectare roadless area located east of Thunder Bay. Its expansive wetlands and forests function as a vast carbon reservoir.


The Nature Conservancy of Canada 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.

Canada’s Nature Smart Climate Solutions Fund (NSCSF) is a $1.4-billion, 10-year fund (2021–2031) administered by Environment and Climate Change Canada. The program aims to help conserve, restore and enhance the management of ecosystems, such as wetlands, forests, and grasslands, to help tackle the dual crises of climate change and biodiversity loss. The NSCSF focuses on three main objectives:

  1. conserving carbon-rich ecosystems at high risk of conversion to other uses that would release their stored carbon;
  2. improving land management practices to reduce their greenhouse gas emission-causing impacts on Canada’s ecosystems; and
  3. restoring degraded ecosystems.

Overall, these projects will contribute to the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions and increased carbon sequestration, while also providing benefits for biodiversity and human well-being.

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.

For photos and video, click here.

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Media Contact:

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

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