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Celebrating 20 years of conservation

The Couchiching Conservancy is celebrating 20 years of conservation. With the help from the community, volunteers and local businesses, we have accomplished so much.

Something very good happened 20 years ago this month.

I was just starting school at Couchiching Heights Public School and was very shy. My family had just moved to Orillia from Washago and we didn’t realize at the time that this would be our long time home. We often spent time walking to the park, paddling the Black River or camping at nearby campgrounds. These family outings not only connected me to my family, it also instilled an appreciation for the outdoors. Because of the natural beauty of the area and the close connections to family and friends, we still proudly call Orillia our home.

At this young age, I wasn’t concerned about conservation issues, climate change or government priorities. I was too young to understand these issues, let alone know that they were something to be concerned about. At the time, my biggest concern was finishing my homework and making sure I got to play tether ball at lunch time. I had no idea that 20 years later I would be working with a local organization that took the environmental issues of the time quite seriously.

Thankfully in 1993, a small group of residents of North Simcoe County were taking action as the regions forests, wetlands and grasslands began to slip away. At the time, there were many questions that didn’t have answers: What will happen to these lands? Will they still be there in 5 years? What about 50 years? Who is ensuring that this land is protected? In answer, The Couchiching Conservancy was formed with its mission “to protect nature for future generations”. Every year since then, they have continued to follow through on their promises.

From the time the Conservancy was formed, the land trust movement has continually grown. Each year the Conservancy has increased the amount of land under their protection and has become a beacon of hope as a group that safeguards nature. To date, the Conservancy has worked with a number of partners to help to protect over 11,000 acres on 40 parcels of wild land in our area, which is collectively larger than the entire City of Orillia.

Included in these protected areas are the trees, animals, plants and insects, which contribute to the health of our area and our communities. As an organization, we have a deep respect for the environment and are proud to be its guardians.

20 years ago the founders knew that they could count on the community for support and the same is true today. The Couchiching Conservancy couldn’t have come so far without help from many individuals and businesses. Much like my own family, people choose to live or visit the Couchiching region because of the unique and beautiful mixture of wetlands, forests and grasslands. Support from the community ensures that these lands, and all of the wildlife, plant life and human life that depend on them, are continually cared for.

Over the years, it is easy to see how our towns and cities have changed. Even thinking about my own neighborhood, I can recall the many businesses that have closed their doors, new ones that have replaced them and all of the new housing that has been built to accommodate our growing population. All of this change has a huge impact on our environment and local ecosystems.

The Conservancy has come a long way from its humble beginnings, and there is still much work to do. Pressures on natural habitat in Central Ontario are mounting, not diminishing. Demands on stretched government resources are rising. The preservation and protection of wild areas is of great importance, perhaps more now than two decades ago.

The anniversary of the Couchiching Conservancy has me thinking about the last 20 years, and also to the future 20 years. Looking ahead, it is possible that I will have my own children and still call Orillia home. I know that because of the Couchiching Conservancy, I can rest assured that nature will be protected. When I was growing up, the Conservancy was working diligently for me. Now I am working for the next generation.

The Couchiching Conservancy has created a strong vision for the future, supported by carefully-considered science. We envision a place to live that is laced with healthy, protected natural spaces and cared for by a strong network of dedicated people. Please join us in making that future a reality. Donate today by visiting our website or calling the office at 705.326.1620.

Written by Tanya Clark.