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Community steps up for land conservation

Board members at Annual Meeting

Thank you so much to all who attended our Annual General Meeting on March 2!

The Couchiching Conservancy celebrated another year of conservation and our 25th anniversary at the Annual General Meeting on March 2, 2019. With over 225 people in attendance, it was a celebration of the community and conservation efforts to date. It was a packed venue, and a packed agenda. Here are the highlights:


Outgoing President Doug Christie, talked about the Conservancy ‘crew’ and what each staff person does in their role.

Financial Report

Jack Booth, Treasurer of the Board, shared the Financial Report

  • The positive financial results for 2018 year largely due to generosity of supporters e.g., fundraising goal for the Ron Reid Nature Reserve exceeded by $57,000.
  • Net assets increased by $899,000 to $5.9 million, of which just under $4.8 million consists of property and easements.

Read the Audited Financial Statement

The Heartwood Fund

Cathy Massig shared an update on the Heartwood Fund on behalf of the Past President’s Council and shared that there are now an estimated 2.5 million in pledges and contributions, by 62 people.

“As most of you are aware, our Planet needs us more than ever now and by helping locally, I feel we help world-wide.  Besides the volunteer work and personal efforts I make today, leaving a donation for the future care of our CC properties is imperative to me. It was an easy decision for me to make a pledge to this fund knowing that I was going to be able to make a difference to the future of the Couchiching Conservancy and ultimately, to our fragile planet.”

Strategic Plan

The Conservancy is working on a new Strategic Plan, to cover 2020-2025. Pam Fulford, a Board member, is leading the steering committee. We are encouraging members to help build the plan by joining the conversation through opportunities such as focus groups, surveys and other outreach.

  • Most of the key objectives of the current plan (2014-19) have been met, including:
    • renovation of Grant’s Woods office;
    • new natural heritage acquisition strategy;
    • significantly increased reserves for stewardship and operations;
    • grown volunteer and supporter base; and
    • increased staff compliment.
    • goal of protecting 2,500 acres almost met with 2,200 acres protected and still 9 months of the year left

A threat to the Alvar

A threat was shared with our supporters on the Cedarhurst property. A 1,300-acre property within the heart of the Carden Alvar, has been sold to developers with plans for a shooting range, which could include 3 km of berms, new roads and noise. Together with supporters, we have notified the municipality of our concerns and worked to improve the fill bylaw. Currently, with the Nature Conservancy of Canada, we are trying to make an offer to purchase the property. If an application is submitted, will continue to oppose development of the property. If you would like to keep informed of this development, please sign up for the Carden Conservation list here.

Supporter Spotlight

Mark Bisset, Executive Director, talked about Sheila MacFeeters. Legacy gifts from her estate have helped build a significant reserve for acquisition and supported our Citizen Science program. Both of these uses are connected because must not take on new properties unless can look after them.

Citizen Science

Mark also shared impressive stats and information on Citizen Science program:

  • 148 volunteers monitoring properties, of which 80 were new volunteers;
  • 219 visits made to properties;
  • Close to 1,500 hours of stewardship; and
  • 500 observations submitted to provincial databases.
  • Collected information used to make important stewardship decisions; more people involved means more power to protect properties.

Legacy Landscapes

David Hawke, Stewardship Program Manager, talked about Legacy Landscapes, a special art exhibit at the Orillia Museum of Art & History to celebrate 25 years of land conservation. 68 uniques works of art were created by over 30 artists. These pieces were inspired by 23 of the Nature Reserves. The exhibit is open until March 24, 2019, and a catalogue of the exhibit is available for sale at our office.


Bob Sullivan, a member of the Board of Directors, chair of the Past Presidents Council and co-chair of the Advisory Council, recognized the work of the Citizen Science volunteers, as well as individuals, David and Juliana Hawke, for their volunteer work on the Legacy Landscapes project.

The new Board of Directors was elected: Jamie Ross as President, and Doug Christie, Jack Booth, Lisa Neville, Wendy Lowry, Robert Sullivan, Pam Fulford, Kathy Hunt and Neil Gray as Directors. A special thank you to Margaret Pomeroy and David Homer who are leaving the board.

Guest Speaker

Janet Sumner joined us as guest speaker. She is the Executive Director of Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society – Wildlands League. Highlights from her presentation include:

  • Two greatest environmental challenges of our time are climate change and biodiversity loss, which are connected and their solutions are connected.
  • What can we do? Protect the land and water, and stop burning fossil fuels.
  • Need functioning and healthy ecoregions, and strategies for protecting freshwater, the boreal forests (major carbon storage), NW Passage and the Arctic, and the Emerald Edge (largest intact coastal rainforest).
  • Protection network of corridors required and need human connection for advocacy.
  • Government Funds available for reaching the 17% protected area goal:
    • first round of funds was for $10 million and bumped to $14 million (very few provincial applications);
    • second round of funds for $175 million and have received >240 expressions of interest; proposals due end of March 2019;
    • may exceed the target 17% and reach 22%;
    • CPAWs is trying to bring together the groups who are trying to protect property, which the federal government was largely unaware of the amount of interest.
  • Future work: program for stewardship and long-term care of protected areas.


Our sincere thanks to all who attended!



Featured photo: Doug Christie, now Past President of the Board, Jamie Ross, incoming President of the Board, and Margaret Pomeroy and David A. Homer who have served on the Board for many years and have completed their terms

Annual General Meeting - March 2, 2019