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June 22, 2017 — WASHAGO — Today The Couchiching Conservancy launches the public phase of a fundraising campaign to protect a major section of one of the last wild rivers in southern Ontario.

“We have signed an offer to purchase a 730-acre tract of wilderness with 4.4 kilometres of the Black River running through it,” said Doug Christie, President of the Orillia-based land trust. “The deal is set to close at the end of January, 2018, so we have a very short window to raise the funds necessary to bring this beautiful tract under permanent protection.”

The land is one of several private parcels inside the boundaries of Queen Elizabeth II Wildlands Provincial Park, east of Washago. Protecting the tract will improve the ecological integrity of the park, strengthen wildlife corridors developing in all directions, and secure a rare deep-sand valley left behind by receding glaciers more than 10,000 years ago. The property provides unique habitat for numerous species at risk, such as Blanding’s and snapping turtles, eastern hog-nosed snake and numerous at-risk species of birds. It is also home to Ontario’s only lizard, the five-lined skink.

“We’re excited about the potential for hiking, canoeing and kayaking,” said Mark Bisset, the conservancy’s executive director.

The Ganaraska Trail, the second longest hiking system in Ontario, runs through a corner of the property, and the acquisition will improve river access for paddlers, he said.

The Couchiching Conservancy must raise $575,000 to secure the property, Bisset said. That sum includes the price of the property, legal and appraisal costs, and a mandatory stewardship endowment that will ensure the organization can care for the property permanently.

“We have had great support in the first phase of the project and we’re approaching the half-way mark of our target, but we are really going to need community support to put us over the top,” Bisset said. “This is  a rare opportunity to protect so much natural beauty with so much local history.”

The Couchiching Conservancy is one of the leading regional land trusts in Ontario. A non-government, charitable organization, it has helped protect close to 13,000 acres of important natural habitat in the Lake Couchiching region since 1993. Wherever possible, the lands are accessible to the public for the responsible enjoyment of nature.

For information on The Black River Wildlands Project, please contact:

Tanya Clark, Development and Outreach Coordinator:  705-326-1620;

Mark Bisset, Executive Director: 705-326-1620;

For more information, go to:

For a selection of downloadable photos for publication, go to:

July 2: Orillia Lions Club shows their support for conservation (Orillia Packet & Times)

June 2015: Conservancy involved in project to engage over 100 students in new after-school program (Orillia Packet & Times)

May 2015: The first Passport to Nature is starting off on a good path thanks to sponsorship support (Orillia Packet & Times)

March 2015: Couchiching Conservancy receives Trillium Grant (Orillia Packet & Times)

February 2015: Significant work completed in 2014 (Orillia Packet & Times)

January 2015: Couchiching Conservancy celebrates 20 years. (Orillia Packet & Times)


Oro-Medonte Township, Ontario

If Copeland Forest has a place in your heart, you need a place at this forum
Group seeks public input on future of Copeland Forest
WHAT:  A public forum to gather input from user groups and residents about the challenges and opportunities regarding the future of Copeland Forest.
WHERE: Horseshoe Valley Ski Lodge, Alpine Room
WHEN: Saturday Nov. 3,  9 a.m. to 3 p.m.  Lunch buffet and refreshments.
CONTACT: Dorthea Hangaard, Project Manager  705-326-1620,

BACKGROUND:Copeland Forest is the largest intact forest within commuting distance of the Greater Toronto Area. It contains the headwaters of three significant watersheds, and is home to many rare plants and animals.  Situated on the edge of the Oro Moraine, it filters groundwater, producing high-quality drinking water for thousands in the region. Due to its beauty and accessibility, it is also very popular with recreational users.

In 2011, The Couchiching Conservancy received funding from the Ontario Trillium Foundation to lead a community-based stewardship initiative in the Copeland Forest. In partnership with the Ministry of Natural Resources, which manages the forest, the Conservancy has been working with community groups and businesses to establish a stewardship committee to help care for the forest. A scientific inventory of the forest has been completed to provide the best possible information to support the decision-making process. The committee, carefully balanced to represent those now active in the forest, is seeking feedback from the general public as it strives to set key stewardship goals for the future.

THE FORUM:The public forum will be facilitated by Dr. Gordon Ball, adult educator and professional facilitator. The “Open Space” format has been chosen to allow participants to set the agenda in a framework of basic rules, and participants can expect a refreshing approach. “This conference will incorporate the best elements of a good coffee break,” Ball said. “The information gathered will be used to create recommendations on the future stewardship of Copeland Forest”, said Dorthea Hangaard, project manager for the Couchiching Conservancy. “We chose this format because it will give participants a chance to be heard in a creative setting,” Hangaard said. “People are really passionate about this forest and we want to tap into that.”

For more information on the project, please go to: