Conservation Archive


Apr 1, 2019

David Katz

Conservation North of the Border

For many New Yorkers, Ontario is that flat place with fields, woodlots, and the occasional wetland that we drive through en route to Ottawa or Montreal. From the highway, eastern Ontario – the area north and east of Kingston - seems to be farms, small towns, and suburbs. Wilderness and conservation may not spring to mind. People may know about Algonquin Provincial Park four hours to the northwest, but what is there closer to home, within maybe an hour drive of the bridges at Ogdensburg or Massena? And how do they do conservation in eastern Ontario?

On some back roads, you may not be sure whether you’re in eastern Ontario or in a remote corner of the Adirondacks. While much wild land is in private hands, a number of government entities and not-for-profit organizations are involved in protecting wild lands, conserving natural resources, and promoting sustainable land use. Eastern Ontario hosts one national park, Thousand Islands National Park of Canada. Ontario Parks operates nine provincial parks in our area, totaling about 30,000 acres. While some of this land is developed for outdoor recreation, most is preserved in its natural state. Three regional land trusts have preserved another 6,000 acres via gifts, purchases, and conservation easements that protect the land from development while continuing to allow certain kinds of use by the landowner.

Eastern Ontario is also governed by several Conservation Authorities. These Authorities were created in the late 1940s in response to flooding and environmental degradation caused by poor land use practices earlier in the century. They are oriented around individual watersheds, and each Authority is funded and controlled partly by the province and partly by local residents. They work with local residents and organizations in a variety of ways to restore and preserve land and water resources. Over the last 70 years, Conservation Authorities have protected about 370,000 acres province-wide, 200,000 of which are open to the public. Twenty of these publicly-accessible Conservation Areas are in eastern Ontario. There is no analog on our side of the border, although the Blueway Corridors on some North Country rivers might be a first step.

Other organizations working to preserve open space in eastern Ontario include The Frontenac Arch Biosphere Network, the Algonquin-to-Adirondack Collaborative, and the Nature Conservancy of Canada. Sometimes adjustments occur. For example, the Landon Bay Centre, managed by the Barbara Heck Foundation and dedicated to protecting the environment with low-impact facilities and activities, is being incorporated into Thousand Islands National Park.

It turns out that there is no shortage of wild woods and water in eastern Ontario. And there is no shortage of organizations working to increase the preservation of eastern Ontario’s open spaces and promote environmentally sound land use.