What is the Couchiching Conservancy? Are you part of the government? Conservation Authority? Kids For Turtles?
The Couchiching Conservancy is a non-profit , non-government land trust, with a broad community membership. Land trusts acquire and retain important properties for the benefit of the public. The Couchiching Conservancy protects more than 11,000 acres of ecologically significant land in the Orillia region, either through direct ownership, partnerships with other organizations such as The Nature Conservancy of Canada, or through conservation easement agreements with private landowners. The Conservancy also promotes good stewardship with private landowners and other partners. The Conservancy is not part of government but works with all levels of government and government agencies.
What areas do you cover?
The Couchiching Conservancy was established by concerned naturalists in Orillia and surrounding region. The key regions include:
- The Carden Plain
- The Oro Moraine
- The Severn Wildlands
- The Black/Head River Corridor
Where are all your properties? Can we go on them?
The Conservancy properties are across the broad region and are accessible to the public (except where the stewardship plan precludes open access). See our Map for the location of some of our properties. Trails have been developed at the following properties to guide public access:
- Grant’s Woods (Orillia)
- Scout Valley (City of Orillia)
- Cameron Ranch (Carden)
- Prairie Smoke Nature Reserve (Carden)
- Little Blue Stem Nature Reserve (Carden)
- East Coulson swamp (Oro-Medonte)
- Alexander Hope Smith Nature Reserve (Washago)
- Church Woods (Shanty Bay)
- Severn Woodlands (North Severn Township)
- Carthew Bay Nature Reserve (Oro-Medonte)
- Thomas C. Agnew Nature Reserve (Washago)
- Elliott Woods (Craighurst)
What uses are generally permitted on the properties?
- Nature appreciation
- Cross country skiing
Other uses that are considered on a case-by-case basis:
- On leash dogs
- Large group visits with a responsible leader
- Erecting nest boxes or nesting platforms
- Feeding birds
- Educational field trips
- Seed collection
What uses are generally prohibited?
- Off leash dogs
- Feeding wildlife
- Collection of material such as picking wildflowers, removal of wood, fossils, etc.
- ATVs/off-road vehicles
- Mountain biking
- Harvesting of berries or mushrooms
- Shelters and stands
Is this a park?
The Couchiching Conservancy properties are not public parkland and remain in the private ownership of the Conservancy. The Conservancy holds these lands to preserve them for future generations. If a choice has to be made, priority is given to preservation over public access.
How big are your properties?
The properties range from roughly 19 acres to 3,000 acres. See our Map.
Where do you get your money?
The Conservancy is a membership-based organization and receives contributions and donations from its members and supporters. To support specific projects, the Conservancy will seek donations and grants from foundations, the Nature Conservancy of Canada, and the provincial and federal government. Our goal is to diversify our funding sources to maintain independence and long-term sustainability.
Do you have employees or is the organization run by volunteers?
The Conservancy has a mix of paid staff and volunteers. Currently, there are four full-time employees and one part-time employee. University and college students supplement our paid staff during the field season. However, the Conservancy could not function without volunteers. Each property in our care is monitored by a team of volunteers, overseen by staff. There are hundreds of volunteers registered with the Conservancy, including a governing board of nine. We are continually seeking new volunteers.
How do you get your properties? Do people just give them to you? Do you buy properties?
The Conservancy has priority regions and actively seeks properties within these regions. The individual properties may be donated, acquired through purchase following a fundraising campaign, acquired through partnerships with other organizations (such as Ontario Heritage Trust, Ontario Parks or the Nature Conservancy of Canada). The Conservancy also holds Conservation Easements on private properties. These easements are donated by the owners of the properties with mutually agreed upon restrictions. The easements are registered on the title of the properties. Ownership remains with the land owner and the easement stays with the property once it is sold.
Do you protest development/quarries/garbage dumps/ other environmental threats?
No, the Conservancy does not get involved in lobbying or political activity. The Conservancy has sought to bring about change through “third way thinking” rather than using an adversarial or advocacy approach. From time to time, the Conservancy may provide information to a government or community organization involved in an environmental issue. As well, the Conservancy may be able to help provide a solution to an environmental issue through development of a conservation easement (such as Scout Valley in Orillia) or out-right acquisition of threatened lands.