Over 26,000 acres of Cockburn Island now protected by Nature Conservancy of Canada

Cockburn Island, Manitoulin Island Archipelago ON (Photo by Mike Lamont)

Nature Conservancy of Canada announces its largest protected area in Ontario

Toronto, ON (August 19, 2019) – The Nature Conservancy of Canada (NCC) announces the protection of 10,730 hectares (26,514 acres) on Cockburn Island, located in northern Lake Huron. 

The non-profit, private land conservation organization has conserved over 60 per cent of the Great Lakes’ seventh largest island, and an incredible 48 kilometres of undeveloped shoreline. 

Containing one of the largest protected, intact hardwood forest ecosystems in southern Ontario, Cockburn Island (17,139 hectares, 42,350 acres) is located between Manitoulin Island to the east and Drummond Island (Michigan) to the west.

A binational study led by NCC and U.S.-based The Nature Conservancy ranked Cockburn Island eighth out of 32,000 islands in the Great Lakes for its conservation importance. The island contains vast forests, wetlands and inland lakes, providing habitat for many globally significant plants and animals.

As a vital breeding area and stopover site for migratory songbirds and waterfowl, the island is visited by the chestnut-sided warbler, wood thrush and the Canada warbler, designated as a threatened species under Canada’s Species at Risk Act. Cockburn Island is home to wide-ranging mammals, including American black bear, white-tailed deer, gray wolf and coyote. The rivers and creeks support both resident and migratory fish, while economically important species, including lake trout and whitefish, spawn on shoals along the coast.

This conservation project was supported by funding from the Government of Canada, through the Natural Areas Conservation Program and the Canada Nature Fund. The project also received funding from generous individuals, foundations and corporations, including the J.A. Woollam Foundation, MapleCross Fund, Rogers Foundation and TD Bank Group, through the TD Forests program.


“This project is a massive undertaking and wouldn’t be possible without the support of our partners and donors. It’s an extraordinary opportunity to make substantive and tangible progress toward protecting an exceptionally large, pristine area of forest and Great Lakes shoreline in the Manitoulin Islands Archipelago.”  Mike Hendren, NCC’s Ontario regional vice-president. 

“Most of the projects I’ve worked on around Lake Michigan are small. So I look at Cockburn Island, and – my gosh – the chance to save huge areas of land close to humanity and close to water, that’s just unheard of. This [project] represents a marvelous opportunity in our time, to do something really big.” Dr. J.A. Woollam.

“Having lived in proximity of the Great Lakes for many years, we have become increasingly aware of their uniqueness and splendour, as well as their fragility.  We are thrilled to be working in partnership with the Nature Conservancy of Canada, the Government of Canada and other donors towards the acquisition of the MapleCross Tract, 1457 acres of environmentally sensitive land on Cockburn Island in Lake Huron. Together, we are committed to restoring and preserving the integrity of our land for our community and for all Canadians.” Dr. Jan Oudenes and Dr. Isobel Ralston, MapleCross Fund; “Investing in Canada – Investing in Nature”.

“Nature is central to Canadian identity, but recent scientific reports have shown that our biodiversity is under threat. With the help of partners like the Nature Conservancy of Canada, our government is taking action to double the amount of protected nature in Canada. By taking the initiative now to protect special places like Cockburn Island, we’re ensuring our kids and grandkids can connect to nature and experience its wonder.”

Catherine McKenna-Minister of Environment and Climate Change Canada


The Nature Conservancy of Canada is the nation’s leading not-for-profit, private land conservation organization, working to protect our most important natural areas and the species they sustain. Since 1962, NCC and its partners have helped to protect more than 82,000 hectares (200,000 acres) in Ontario. To learn more, visit natureconservancy,ca.

Quick Start is part of the Canada Nature Fund and Canada’s Nature Legacy, the single largest investment in nature conservation by a Canadian government. Quick Start funding supports projects building on the momentum of the Pathway to Target 1, an international commitment to conserve biodiversity. Funds were directed to provinces, territories, Indigenous governments and non-profit organizations to advance nearly-ready Indigenous Protected and Conserved Areas (IPCA) and other protected and conserved areas.

The Government of Canada’s Natural Areas Conservation Program (NACP) was established to accelerate the pace of land conservation across southern Canada.  Federal funds invested in the public-private partnership program were matched by contributions raised by NCC and its partners.  Habitat conserved under the NACP will enhance natural corridors and other protected areas.

The NACP concluded March 31, 2019.  It has been replaced by Canada’s Natural Heritage Conservation Program (NHCP), which will continue to support new protected and conserved areas by securing private lands and private interests in lands. The NHCP is funded by the Canada Nature Fund.

Video and images: https://adobe.ly/2N8Eszy