Cross-border partnership leads to Great Lakes conservation success

Thanks to the cross-border collaboration of several organizations, the Nature Conservancy of Canada (NCC) has purchased one of the last privately owned, undeveloped shorelines between Duluth, Minnesota, and Thunder Bay, Ontario.

Known as Big Trout Bay, the property is located just minutes from the international border, and 45 minutes from Thunder Bay, on the shores of Lake Superior. Its densely forested land is crucial to several native species, including bald eagles and peregrine falcons, which are assessed as special concern by the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada (COSEWIC). The 1,018-hectare (2,517-acre) property is composed mostly of coastal boreal forest. Nearly half of Canada’s bird species rely on boreal habitat like Big Trout Bay to complete their life cycle, and many of these species migrate throughout the Americas.

“Lake Superior’s Big Trout Bay, McKellar Point and Pine Point represent the last unsecured Great Lakes wilderness on the continent— truly a global gem. After more than 15 years of work personally on this project, I understand the importance of preserving the natural view the Voyageurs saw and, equally as important, the ecosystems that have sustained First Nations for generations,” says Tom Duffus, Midwest vice president for The Conservation Fund, which provided bridge financing as well as transactional and fundraising assistance to NCC via its Great Lakes Revolving Fund.

The property also includes 21 kilometres of undeveloped shoreline with towering cliffs, stretches of open bedrock and rugged cobble beach. These shoreline areas are especially important for biodiversity, as they provide varied habitat for species such as bird’s-eye primrose, lake trout and moose.

Gary Davies and James Duncan with the Nature Conservancy of Canada

“This is a massive international undertaking, but when faced with the potential loss of habitat and wildlife on the largest freshwater lake in the world, thinking big is essential. Most importantly, this project gives us hope that the landscapes we love today will be here for others to enjoy tomorrow. It’s an extraordinary opportunity to make substantive and tangible progress on our overall goal of protecting Lake Superior’s north shore,” says James Duncan, vice president, NCC, Ontario Region.

This NCC project was generously supported by funding from the Government of Canada through the Natural Areas Conservation Program, and with the generous partnership of the JA Woollam Foundation, the Margaret A. Cargill Foundation, the Bobolink Foundation, the Rogers Foundation, The Nature Conservancy’s Wisconsin and Minnesota programs, The Conservation Fund, Green Leaf Advisors and many individual donors in both the United States and Canada.

Don Rusnak, Member of Parliament for Thunder Bay—Rainy River attended the NCC’s announcement in Thunder

Don Rusnak, Member of Parliament for Thunder Bay-Rainy River

Bay,“On behalf of the Hon. Catherine McKenna, Minister of Environment and Climate Change, I want to congratulate the Nature Conservancy of Canada and thank its many Canadian and American partners and donors for helping to make this bi-national initiative possible. The Government of Canada is pleased to support their habitat conservation efforts through the Natural Areas Conservation Program. Working together, we will protect the majestic natural beauty of the north shore region for generations to come.”

The Nature Conservancy of Canada has been working to conserve land along Lake Superior’s north shore for 15 years, and this most recent acquisition brings the total conserved hectares (acres) of protected land that is open to the public for low impact activities, such as hiking, to 3,557 hectares (8,790 acres).

With the formal establishment of the Lake Superior National Marine Conservation Area still to come, the protection of Big Trout Bay is indeed good news for the world’s greatest lake.