Boreal Wildlands, ON (Photo by NCC)

Boreal Wildlands, ON (Photo by NCC)

Great Northern Clay Belt Natural Area

Boreal Wildlands, ON (Photo by NCC)

Boreal Wildlands, ON (Photo by NCC)

Why this place is important

The Great Northern Clay Belt is an expansive tract of fertile soil stretching from Cochrane District, Ontario, to Abitibi County, Quebec. The Clay Belt is surrounded by Canadian Shield and supports vast forests, peatlands and rivers.

Land in the nearly 6.7-million-hectare natural area represents an area facing threats, such as land conversion for agriculture and incompatible development, such as extensive road networks for resource extraction. Its protection would address the twin crises of climate change and biodiversity loss, by providing functional intact corridors for wide-ranging mammals, such as black bear, moose, lynx and even threatened boreal woodland caribou as well as southern species that will be pushed northward due to climate change. The forests, peatlands and soils of the Clay Belt store vast amounts of carbon, the release of which would contribute significantly to climate change.

Great Northern Clay Belt natural area map - click to enlarge

Great Northern Clay Belt Natural Area map - click to enlarge

The boreal forest is an important connector to NCC’s work in southern Ontario. Many of the breeding birds that spend their summers in the boreal forest (known as “the songbird factory of Canada”), including the nationally rare Canada warbler, migrate in the spring through southern NCC priority natural areas, such as the Western Lake Erie Islands, Norfolk Forests and Long Point Wetlands, and Happy Valley Forest.

What NCC is doing

NCC currently has an active big, bold and boreal project, known as the Boreal Wildlands. NCC’s long-term vision for the area is to help create a connected mosaic of protected lands across the landscape.

The natural area is within Treaty 9 (James Bay Treaty) and is both the traditional and current homelands of many Indigenous Nations and communities. NCC is working to build meaningful, respectful and long-term relationships with local Indigenous communities that acknowledge and support the rights and connections of Indigenous Peoples to these lands.

Boreal Wildlands

NCC is actively fundraising to protect and care for the Boreal Wildlands project, located in the Great Northern Clay Belt Natural Area. Once complete, the 1,450-square-kilometre project will be the largest private land conservation project in Canada’s history.

What lives there

These are some of the significant and at-risk species found in this natural area:



  • gypsy cuckoo bumble bee
    Canada warbler (Photo by Gerald Deboer)

    Canada warbler (Photo by Gerald Deboer)


  • black ash




The natural area is likely to experience increasing pressure from intensifying resource extraction, emerging agricultural development and growing residential development as the climate warms, making northern Ontario slightly more hospitable year over year.

The protection of functional, buffered, interior-forest rich natural corridors is a top priority in this natural area, as growing threats like cattle ranching continue to accelerate interest in and development of this area year over year.

A priority for conservation

Please consider a gift to help protect and care for the Great Northern Clay Belt Natural Area.

Donate to Boreal Wildlands

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