The Race is on to Conserve Lake Huron’s Last, Large Wilderness Island in the Great Lakes


Part of larger effort to preserve areas between Grand Bend and Manitoulin Island

This past World Water Day, the Nature Conservancy of Canada (NCC) announced a campaign to expand a large conservation area on Cockburn Island. If successful, it will become the national not-for-profit land trust’s largest land conservation project in Ontario.

Presently, NCC has protected 25,055 acres (10,139 hectares) – over 60 per cent of the island, along with 48 kilometres of undeveloped shoreline. The group is now trying to add another 1,400 acres (566 hectares) to these existing conservation lands.

Cockburn IslandFor more than five years, NCC has been leading an international effort to acquire a rich blend of forests, beaches, wetlands and inland lakes on Cockburn Island. Located in northern Lake Huron, between Manitoulin Island to the east and Drummond Island (Michigan) to the west, the island is one of the few undeveloped islands in Lake Huron

In an international study of 32,000 islands in the Great Lakes, Cockburn Island ranked eighth overall for its importance to conservation. The current acquisition will protect an important portion of the interior forests on Cockburn Island. This will provide a critical north-south link between existing NCC lands, provide habitat for interior forest birds, facilitate the movement of large mammals, and protect the highest point of land and headwaters of the island.

Cockburn IslandAccessible primarily by boat, Cockburn Island provides important stopover and breeding habitat for migrating songbirds and waterfowl, including chestnut-sided warbler, wood thrush and the threatened Canada warbler. The island also supports wide-ranging mammals, such as black bear, white-tailed deer, grey wolf and coyote. The rivers and creeks support both resident and migratory fish species.

NCC is in a race to complete project fundraising by May. The conservation organization needs to raise $100,000 in land acquisition and stewardship funds to complete the project.

This project is just the start of a larger, multi-year campaign to protect the islands, bays and coastal lands that surround Lake Huron – from Grand Bend, along the Saugeen Bruce Peninsula to Manitoulin Island.

Cockburn IslandWith ever-increasing development in southern Ontario, it is rare to find such a complete and intact ecosystem like that of Cockburn Island. The growing demand for second homes and cottage developments has not reached Cockburn Island like it has in other parts of Lake Huron.

“In 20 years, a project of this scale will be unimaginable. NCC has an extraordinary opportunity to conserve this remarkable piece of Canada’s natural history, before it’s too late,” said Mike Hendren, NCC’s regional vice-president for Ontario.



·        The total size of Cockburn Island is 42,350 acres (17,139 hectares)

Unlike Drummond and Manitoulin islands, there has been little development on Cockburn Island. The island was opened up for agriculture and logging in the late 1800s, but its isolation resulted in the abandonment of many farmsteads


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