The Nature Conservancy of Canada (NCC) and The Nature Conservancy (TNC) today announced the protection of the Wilson Island group near Rossport, Ontario. This $7.4-million bi-national initiative is the largest (based on dollar value) conservation project ever completed in Ontario. The landmark acquisition in northwestern Ontario will preserve habitat and species at risk for the long term. It was made possible with significant funding support from the Government of Canada under the Natural Areas Conservation Program, the Province of Ontario and The Nature Conservancy, based in the United States.
The Nature Conservancy and NCC have identified the Northwestern Lake Superior Coast as a high priority for conservation action based on the bi-national Great Lakes Conservation Blueprint for Aquatic Biodiversity. The NCC/TNC collaboration allowed the two organizations to negotiate the deal for Wilson Island with an American vendor and raise private donations from U.S. donors and foundations to secure a large area of undeveloped Great Lakes Shoreline — an increasingly rare opportunity.
This deal has strong support from the Pays Plat First Nation, whose people have a deep cultural interest in this natural gem. The Nature Conservancy of Canada will work cooperatively with the Pays Plat First Nation to conduct biological and cultural inventories of the islands and ensure the long-standing Aboriginal traditions will be maintained for generations to come.
The eight islands in the Wilson Island cluster total more than 4,700 acres (1,900 hectares). They are situated in the heart of the recently established Lake Superior National Marine Conservation Area — the largest protected freshwater area on the planet. Wilson Island’s high cliffs provide nesting habitat for Peregrine Falcons and Bald Eagles, while the smaller offshore islands provide important nesting habitat for colonial waterbirds. The rare coastal wetlands and forests, rugged cliffs, bedrock shoreline and globally rare sand beaches of the islands support rare species such as Mountain Fir-moss and Northern Woodsia fern.
The Wilson Island group is a cluster of eight islands. Wilson is by far the largest of the eight, and has north-facing cliffs on water and canyons, raised basalt beaches and an unexplored interior. It supports all the arctic-alpine species and vegetation communities for which Lake Superior’s north shore is famous. Lake trout and whitefish spawn in the nearshores. In a Parks Canada study of the entire northwest coast of Lake Superior, the Wilson Islands ranked second overall for their representation of significant features of the region.
"There are no borders in nature. In that spirit a common mission has brought together this unique group of partners who have ensured the conservation of the Wilson Island group," says John Lounds, President and CEO of the Nature Conservancy of Canada. "This bi-national success story will preserve land, water and the species they sustain for today, and for future generations."
“The Wilson Island group presented an unmatched opportunity to protect large-scale, ecologically significant and relatively untouched habitat,” remarked NCC’s Chris Maher, regional vice-president, Ontario. "This project has been on the conservation community’s wish list for many years, and the joint effort to protect this island group has been crucial its success.”
"This project represents a major step forward in our binational effort to conserve the Great Lakes 'vanishing coastal areas',” said Dennis McGrath, Michigan's assistant state director for The Nature Conservancy. "This project is important not just to Canada, but to the entire Great Lakes region."
“The Government of Canada is very proud of its partnership with organizations like the Nature Conservancy of Canada because of our shared commitment to conserving biological diversity,” said Minister Prentice. “With our investment of $225 million in Environment Canada’s Natural Areas Conservation Program, the government is taking real action to ensure a healthy future for species at risk and for sensitive ecosystems like those found at Wilson Island.”
"Protecting rare landscapes and species across Ontario is vital to ensure we conserve the province's biodiversity and pass on a healthy environment to future generations," said Ontario Natural Resources Minister Donna Cansfield. "The Wilson Islands project has brought together partners on both sides of the Canada-U.S. border to secure an important part of our natural heritage."
The Nature Conservancy of Canada (NCC) is Canada’s leading land conservation organization. Since 1962, NCC has helped to protect more than 2 million acres (8.100 square kilometres) of ecologically significant land nationwide. www.natureconservancy.ca
The Government of Canada’s Natural Areas Conservation Program is a $225-million investment to assist non-profit, non-government organizations to secure ecologically sensitive lands and ensure the conservation of our diverse ecosystems, wildlife and habitat. The Nature Conservancy of Canada has been entrusted to lead the program and has committed to raising matching funds for each federal dollar received.
To help conserve Ontario’s biodiversity, the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources’ Land Securement Program provides funding to support the securement of sensitive natural heritage lands in Ontario by non-governmental partners like the Nature Conservancy of Canada. The Nature Conservancy of Canada is committed to raising matching funds for each provincial dollar received.
The Nature Conservancy is a leading conservation organization working around the world to protect ecologically important lands and waters for nature and people. The Conservancy and its more than 1 million members have protected nearly 120 million acres worldwide. Visit The Nature Conservancy on the Web at www.nature.org.