06 September 2012
American donor pledges $5 million matching grant to Cockburn Island conservation project
Nature Conservancy of Canada must raise final $5 million by mid-December
Toronto, ON –The Nature Conservancy of Canada (NCC) today announced an unprecedented opportunity to purchase 60 percent of Lake Huron’s Cockburn Island for conservation. The island, located just west of Manitoulin Island, is tenth highest conservation priority in the Great Lakes. NCC must raise a remaining $5 million in gifts and pledges by mid-December in order to conserve the land forever.
The total budget for the Cockburn Island project is $15.2 million, of which $10.2 has so far been pledged. The pledges include $5 million from an anonymous but passionate American conservationist who sees this project as an opportunity to give back both to nature and to the Great Lakes communities. The donor will make this incredible donation to the Cockburn Island project if NCC is successful in raising the remainder of funds necessary to make the project a reality.
The land that NCC hopes to purchase is 24,000 acres (9,710 hectares) with over 45 kilometres of undeveloped shoreline, high quality sand dunes, cobble beaches, and coastal wetlands. Inland areas contain a vast sand plain forest, a cranberry bog, and alvars – a rare habitat found on limestone bedrock with little to no soil cover. If successful, this project will be Ontario’s largest protected hardwood forest south of the Canadian Shield and Ontario’s single largest (in size) conservation project.
Much of Cockburn Island was logged or cleared for agriculture in the late 1800s, but when the ferry service ceased, its isolation resulted in the abandonment of the farmsteads. Today the island has only a small, seasonal population of cottagers, mostly clustered in houses in the old village of Tolsmaville, leaving the natural habitats on the island largely untouched and in very good condition.
To make your gift to this landmark project, please call 1-800-465-0029, ext. 246 or email firstname.lastname@example.org. For more information about Cockburn Island visit www.natureconservancy.ca/cockburn.
“The Cockburn Island project will conserve one tree for every Ontarian,” said James Duncan, Nature Conservancy of Canada Regional Vice President for Ontario. “The window of opportunity to conserve this large a project in southern Ontario is open now. If NCC cannot mobilize the resources to conserve this beautiful piece of Canada, it will likely be carved up, sold off, and developed. Every dollar counts: if just half of Ontarians gave $1 each we would have the remaining $5 million needed for this project.”
“Most of the projects I’ve worked on are small, for example, we recently conserved about 100 acres for $22 million. I look at Cockburn Island, and with the endowment to care for the land included, at $15 million, you have this huge area – my gosh – the chance to save a huge area of land close to humanity and close to water, that’s just unheard of,” remarked the anonymous donor. “This [project] represents a marvelous opportunity in our time, to do something really big.”
“A lot of people have been on Cockburn Island, or seen it, or have cottages on the shore there or along the North Channel, and they can emotionally relate to Cockburn Island; what I’m hoping is, by my match-funding challenge, we’ll find those people,” confided the anonymous donor. “People are hugely inspired by challenges, I know I have been, and others I’ve talked to are inspired by those who put up matches as well. If there’s a match there, then I know someone else cares, and in the case of Cockburn Island, that person putting up the match – me – cares in a pretty big way.”
· At 45 km, the shoreline that will be protected is longer than an Olympic marathon; it would take an average person nine hours to walk 45km.
· The area to be protected (24,000 acres) is equal to 12,000 CFL fields, or 1,890 complete Roger’s Centres (Skydome).
· Only one percent of Cockburn Island is currently protected.
· Cockburn Island was assessed in the 2010 Islands of Life study of Great Lakes islands and ranked as the tenth highest conservation priority out 2,003 assessed sites; there are 32,000 islands in the Great Lakes. [http://nhic.mnr.gov.on.ca/MNR/nhic/projects/Islands_of_Life/Islands_of_Life_Final.pdf]
· The Cockburn Island project will protect an area that includes four separate watersheds and approximately 13 million combined mature trees, seedlings and saplings – that’s one tree for every Ontarian.
· By their very nature, islands are isolated and sensitive to change; they are safe havens for uncommon habitats and a wealth and variety of native species, many rare.
· Cockburn Island is home to globally rare alvar and dune habitat, and rare species including Pitcher’s thistle, ram’s-head lady’s-slipper (orchid), Houghton’s goldenrod, and bald eagle.
· Cockburn Island is a critical stopover point for migratory birds who rest and feed on its shores during annual spring and fall migrations.
· Cockburn Island is the seventh largest island in the Great Lakes.
· The project budget includes not only the cost of land, but associated costs such as land transfer taxes and legal support, as well as the funding of a stewardship endowment to provide for long-term management needs.
About the Nature Conservancy of Canada:
Now celebrating its 50th year, the Nature Conservancy of Canada (NCC) is the nation’s leading land conservation organization, working to protect our most important natural areas and the species they sustain. Since 1962 NCC and its partners have helped to protect more than 2.6 million acres (more than 1 million hectares), coast to coast. To learn more visit: www.natureconservancy.ca/on.
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National Media Relations Manager, Nature Conservancy of Canada