The Conservancy works with numerous partners to protect natural lands across six municipalities around Lake Couchiching and the City of Orillia. This includes the watersheds of the Talbot, Sturgeon, Coldwater, North and Matchedash Rivers, the Hawkstone, Bluff and St. John’s Creeks and parts of the lower Head, Black and Severn watersheds. Lake Dalrymple, Sparrow Lake, Bass Lake and the north west shore of Lake Simcoe are all within our coverage area. This region encompasses the ecological transition along the southern edge of the Canadian Shield and is highly diverse in its ecology.
As a foundation for its work, the Couchiching Conservancy undertook a study called The Natural Heritage Action Plan to identify the main strategic areas needing protection.
This work identified: the Oro Moraine, the Carden Alvar, Severn Wildlands and the Black/Head River corridor.
The key areas needing protection are reviewed every five years as part of a strategic planning process. At that time, the Conservancy consults with its membership and key stakeholders and convenes a strategic planning meeting to review priorities for the coming period.
A Strategic Plan for the Couchiching Conservancy was completed in 2013 and covers the time frame of 2014-2019.
The goals of the plan are:
- Monitor and manage effectively lands owned or under the protection of the CC.
- Protect additional high-priority properties, particularly within defined focus areas.
- Maintain an ethical, fiscally sound and well-managed organization.
- Build a loyal CC membership and a strong volunteer base.
- Stimulate public interest and engagement in land conservation.
- Encourage sound public policy in support of natural heritage protection.
Within these broad geographic areas, the Conservancy looks at the following criteria to select projects:
- Ecological significance
- Context (linkages to other properties, size and threats)
- Public benefit
- Management needs
- Financial feasibility.
From time to time, the Conservancy will respond to areas outside the key regions if the public benefit warrants and the community support is present. A key example of this was the preservation of Church Woods.
The Couchiching Conservancy works with private landowners to secure ecologically significant lands that we have identified as priorities for conservation in our Natural Heritage Action Plan.
The Conservancy acquires land through:
Outright purchase: Couchiching Conservancy purchases a piece of land outright from a private landowner (corporate or individual).
Land donation: Couchiching Conservancy receives a donation of land from a private landowner (corporate or individual).
Conservation agreement: Couchiching Conservancy enters into a legal agreement in which a landowner agrees to restrict activities that would threaten the ecological value of the land. The land remains in the ownership and control of the landowner.
There are significant tax advantages through the federal Ecological Gifts Program for those who donate land or conservation easement agreements. In all securement projects involving an interest in the ownership of the property (including conservation easements), the owners involved will be advised by the Conservancy to seek independent legal and financial advice to ensure that their interests are protected.