OLTA Awards

The Ontario Land Trust Alliance Awards recognize individuals and organizations that have made outstanding contributions to the land trust movement and conservation in Ontario. The Award categories are;

Angus McLeod Vision Award – Volunteer Achievement

The Angus McLeod Vision Award honours Angus’ contribution as a long-time OLTA volunteer. Angus was active as an OLTA Governor, Chair of the OLTAP Committee (over 10 years), and Ontario representative to the Canadian Land Trust Alliance.

The award recognizes individuals who have made outstanding contributions to the land trust community as volunteers. The nominees’ length and breadth of service will be considered along with their personal contributions, successes in inspiring others, and
enduring impacts on conservation in Ontario.

OLTA Vision Award – Professional Achievement

The OLTA Vision Award recognizes individuals who have made outstanding contributions to the land trust community at the local and/or provincial level in a professional (paid) capacity. Consideration will be given to the nominee’s length and breadth of service,
personal contributions to the success of specific initiatives, leadership or pioneering efforts in one or more areas, successes in inspiring others, or enduring impacts on conservation

OLTA Emerging Land Trust Leader Award

The OLTA Emerging Land Trust Leader Award recognizes individuals 35 years old and under who have made outstanding contributions to the land trust community at the local and/or provincial level in either in a professional (paid) or volunteer role. Consideration will be given to a contribution to a leadership or pioneering effort in one or more areas, success in inspiring others, or demonstrating the potential to have strong future impacts on conservation.

OLTA Land Trust Award for Excellence

The OLTA Land Trust Award for Excellence recognizes land trusts that are raising the bar for excellence in conservation or community engagement. As the global conservation movement becomes more sophisticated and better-informed, Ontario organizations are responding by increasing their conservation efforts, practices, and operations. As community-based organizations, they value their connections to their local communities and make sincere efforts to embrace the evolving diversity of those communities.

The OLTA Land Trust Award for Excellence recognizes groups who have achieved excellence in one or more of the following areas:

  • Directly advancing the conservation of habitat and species on-the-ground. This may involve the securement of a particularly significant property or the implementation of a vital stewardship initiative.
  • Demonstrating meaningful progress in growing and improving their operations and practices.
  • Showing innovative approaches to engaging their local communities, and valuing
    diversity and inclusion in the operations and practices of their organization.

You can email your nomination to admin@olta.ca

Angus McLeod Vision Award Recipents

2023 Angus McLeod Vision Award Recipient

This year’s recipient is Larry McCurdy who was nominated by the Land Conservancy for Kingston, Frontenac, Lennox and Addington.
The Awards Committee was impressed by Larry’s contributions not only to the land trust but to many other organizations in Eastern Ontario over 50 years. Including encouraging new naturalists in Kingston Field Naturalist’s Junior Naturalist Program.

Quote from the nomination: “Every organization needs to be built on a rock-solid foundation. This foundation is the people who are reliable, act with integrity, offer their advice gently, and contribute to a spirit of cooperation and consensus-building over a number of years. We would like to introduce you to our nominee for the Angus McLeod Vision Award, our rock: Larry McCurdy.”

2021 Angus McLeod Vision Award Recipient

Dave Warner was recognized for his volunteer contributions for over 30 years. Dave helped in he creation of the Thousand Islands Nature Conservancy (now the Thousand Islands Watershed Land Trust) and the Frontenac Arch Biosphere Reserve. He has worked on many land securement projects and continues to work diligently on land trust matters.

2020 Angus McLeod Vision Award Recipient

Bill Dickinson was presented with the Angus McLeod Vision Award. Bill is a highly knowledgeable field biologist whose personal mission is to share what he knows. He has inspired many, many others over the years, particularly young people. We feel this is an enduring contribution to conservation in Ontario and makes Mr. Dickinson most worthy of this award.

2019 Angus McLeod Vision Award Recipient

Dave Wake was presented with the Angus McLeod Vision Award. Dave has made exceptional contributions at every level for Thames Talbot Land Trust (TTLT). He has been an active member since 2000, serving on committees and in leadership as Governance Chair, President and Past President. Under Dave’s leadership, TTLT has served as the incubator for two new environmental groups in London. Dave has worked to raise TTLT’s profile in the community resulting in donations and a new cadre of talented board members.

2018 Angus McLeod Vision Award Recipients

There were two recipients for the Angus McLeod Vision Award: Allyn Abbott and Christopher Baines.

Allyn Abbott has been dedicated to the land trust movement for more than 14 years. She joined the board of Muskoka Heritage Trust in 2004. She lead the merger that formed the Muskoka Conservancy as its president and remains on the board and serves as chair of the Land Acquisition and Management Committee. Allyn willing shares her knowledge to any staff and directors.

Christopher Baines has been a “force of nature” and a “force for nature” within Ontario’s land trust community for over twenty-five years. He has been a triple-threat – or perhaps, more accurately, a triple advocate – for the land trust community, active at the local, provincial and international levels in a wide variety of capacities.

OLTA Vision Award Recipients

2023 OLTA Vision Award Recipient

This year’s recipient is Thom Unrau, Kawartha Land Trust. Whether it’s building KLT’s lands department to develop and support the land trust sector’s next generation of conservation leaders, working on an ambitious community trail network to connect two towns in the Kawarthas, permanently protecting lands, including working lands, or growing KLT’s Partners in Conservation program, Thom’s creativity and energy remain unflagged.

The Awards Committee was most impressed by Thom’s work on KLT’s Partner in Conservation.

2020 OLTA Vision Award Recipient

This year’s recipient was Christopher Gosselin. Mr. Gosselin has clearly made an outstanding contribution to the land trust community, energizing others and offering ongoing advice and support to conservation. His life-time work has contributed greatly to conservation and the land trust movement in Waterloo Region, and he has been a long term supporter of various land trusts and other organizations devoted to the protection of our natural environment.

2019 OLTA Vision Award Recipient

This year’s recipient was Valerie Fieldwebster.  Valerie has recently retired as the Coordinator for Magnetawan Watershed Land Trust (MWLT). Valerie joined MWLT in 2013 and has made an outstanding personal contribution to MWLT and local communities in her role as MWLT Coordinator. Her conservation, education and community outreach and engagement work will leave a lasting legacy in Magnetawan and the surrounding Magnetawan River watershed communities.

2018 OLTA Vision Award Recipient

There was one recipient of this award – Sandra Tassel.

Sandra Tassel serves as Program Coordinator for American Friends, applying nearly 30 years’ experience in conservation acquisitions in the U.S. and Canada. Through Sandy’s careful stewardship, American Friends has been the leading pioneer for cross-border conservation in Canada. In working with OLTA, its member organizations and collaborators, Sandy has been a creative, supportive and strategic ally and knowledgeable resource for Ontario’s land trust community.

2017 OLTA Vision Award Recipients 

There were three recipients of the OLTA awards this year; Ian Attridge, Gord & Jane Ball and Peter Carson were recognized with the OLTA Vision Award.

Ian Attridge has 16 years with the Kawartha Land Trust (KLT), wearing many different hats. During that time, Ian was also involved in the land trust community, volunteering with OLTA which continues today. He has been a mentor to many and inspired others to become involved in land conservation. He is now retired from KLT but continues to share his passion and remains active in the land trust community.


Gord and Jane Ball are founding members of The Couchiching Conservancy. Gord and Jane embody the culture that has made The Couchiching Conservancy successful and they stand as role models for the entire movement. Perhaps no other couple have given so much of their time, energy, leadership and resources to make the Conservancy what it is today. (Photo Credit: D. Hawke)



Peter Carson has been involved since the early days in the land trust community. He has been part of OLTA as Vice Chair and Governor. He has been a leading force with the Long Point Basin Land Trust (LPBLT) since it’s founding in 1996 and President for the past 10 years. There is no doubt the conservation movement has benefitted from his frankness and strength of opinions over the years, and for that we are grateful.

Peter received his award from Al Robinson (right).


2016 OLTA Vision Award Recipients 

Joan Chalovich and Bruce McLellan were presented with the OLTA Vision Award

As a founding member of the Northumberland Land Trust, Joan Chalovich was instrumental in the formation of the trust, including settings its land securement goals and contributing to the board in a number of roles over the last 10 years. Joan’s list of accomplishments and contributions is lengthy and for those, she receives the OLTA Vision Award.



Bruce McLellan has been an active volunteer and Board member of the Lake of Bays Heritage Foundation since 2001. He has contributed greatly to Lake of Bays Heritage Foundation and to the land trust community. Bruce is recognized with the OLTA Vision Award.



2015 OLTA Vision Award Recipients 

Don Prince - award

Don Prince was acknowledged for his many accomplishments over more than fifty years in the land trust community. Susan Walmer, Executive Director, Oak Ridges Moraine Land Trust presented the award.



Peter Welles - award



Peter was among the founders of The Kensington Conservancy and continues to be the TKC champion as well as contributing to land conservation in the US.

Tanna Elliott accepted for Peter Welles as Peter was unable to attend. Peter received his OLTA Vision Award at The Kensington Conservancy Christmas party.



2011 OLTA Vision Award Recipients

Professional Achievement- Don Gordon
Don Gordon’s leadership and unique skills in conservation led to the development of the Thames Talbot Land Trust (TTLT). As TTLT’s first Executive Director, Mr. Gordon displayed exceptional qualities both as a leader and a visionary within the land trust movement.

Volunteer Achievement- Anne Robertson
Anne Robertson redefines what it means to be a volunteer. Anne played a vital role in the founding of the Land Conservancy of Kingston, Frontenac, Lennox & Addington (LCKFLA). Her inspirational leadership and dedication helped spearhead countless achievements in land protection and nature education.

2010 OLTA Vision Award – Volunteer Achievement 

Award Ross

Don and Marnie Ross have both demonstrated outstanding contributions to conservation and land protection in southeastern Ontario, with the Thousand Islands Watershed Land Trust.

Pictured (L to R): Ron Reid, Marnie Ross, Don Ross

2010 OLTA Vision Award – Supporting Organization:

Queen’s University Biological Station

Award QUBSRaleigh Robertson, Frank Phelan and Bruce Tufts have demonstrated outstanding contributions in influencing the evolution of the land trust movement in eastern Ontario, and in protecting the landscape of the Rideau Lakes and the Frontenac Arch.

Pictured (L to R): Ron Reid, Raleigh Robertson, Frank Phelan




2009 OLTA Vision Award 

Tom AtkinsTom has guided the Oak Ridges Moraine Land Trust since its inception in 2000. Using Stew Hilt’s “Creative Conservation” Tom guided a group of volunteers to become an organization with staff, volunteers and conservation partners throughout the GTA.

Pictured L to R: Christopher Baines, OLTA Gathering Committee and Tom Atkins


Ric SymmesSince joining the conservation field in the mid 1990’s, Ric’s commitment to fostering lasting partnerships, working for policy change and applying a strategic approach to conservation have resulted in great successes for conservation organizations and landowners alike in Ontario.

Pictured L to R: Christopher Baines, OLTA Gathering Committee and Ric Symmes



2008 OLTA Vision Award 

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe first award recipient is ahead of the curve in identifying challenges and opportunities and works hard to develop solutions. Our first OLTA Vision Award recipient Stew Hilts was also the first Chair of the Ontario Land Trust Alliance and “wrote the book” on land trusts, Creative Conservation. Stew is a Professor at the University of Guelph, where he is also the Director of the Centre for Land and Water Stewardship. Most recently, Stew has been working to save Ontario’s best places to grow food as Chair of Ontario Farmland Trust.

Pictured L to R – Melissa Watkins, Executive Director, Ontario Farmland Trust, April Weppler, Chair, OLTA, Stew Hilts (Guelph)

OLTA Emerging Land Trust Leader Award

2023 Emerging Land Trust Leader Award

This year’s recipient is Carter Dorscht, The Kensington Conservancy. Carter is the Executive Director after several years as Land Stewardship Coordinator. Carter has improved TKC’s compliance with CLT S&Ps and created partnerships with other environmental and educational groups in surrounding area. He is an avid birder, and has instituted ongoing scientific studies with local partners on water quality, wolf sightings and bat species.

2020 Emerging Land Trust Leader Award

Patricia Wilson was recognized with the Emerging Land Trust Leader Award. Patricia is a natural community engager and is challenging us, and others, to increase our reach to both share our passion for land conservation and also learn from and involve new, emerging and often hidden voices in our work We celebrate the enthusiasm and sensibility that Ms. Wilson clearly brings to her work in her many roles with the Kawartha Land Trust: educator, steward, community conservation coordinator. The nomination noted “her love of people and dedication to inclusivity and diversity.

2019 Emerging Land Trust Leader Award

Tanya Clark was recognized with the Emerging Land Trust Leader Award. Tanya works tirelessly for The Couchiching Conservancy as their Development Coordinator. She organizes events, manages their membership program and all of the fundraising campaigns. She helped pioneer their Passport to Nature program. This program has been so successful that now she has shared it with dozens of other organizations across the country. To quote her nominator – “…looking for an emerging leader, there is one working quietly down the hall from me right now and I can’t wait to see what she comes up with next.”

2018 Emerging Land Trust Leader Award

This year’s recipient is Smiling Water (Mackenzie Lespérance).

Smiling Water joined rare in September 2017 as Indigenous Program Coordinator & Facilitator and has taken our world by storm. Smiling Water is committed to a life-long learning journey that includes the ‘new’ and the ‘old way’ which refers to western and Indigenous knowledge systems, respectfully. She hopes that through her role at rare, these two knowledge systems will stand side by side with equality and reciprocity, and that through her work we can emerge with a new perspective on the role of land trusts in this process, and the opportunities and responsibilities for land trust organizations to engage in meaningful reconciliation efforts.

OLTA Land Trust Achievement Award Recipients

2020 OLTA Land Trust Award for Excellence

OLTA Land Trust Award for Excellence to Ontario Farmland Trust. Kathryn Enders, Executive Director, received the award for Ontario Farmland Trust. We were impressed by the partnership with the National Farmers Union – Last year, OFT created a partnership with the National Farmer’s Union – Ontario to address the farmland succession crisis in our province, and the ongoing effort to bring the organization into “high compliance” with the Canadian Land Trust Standards & Practices within 1 year.

2017 OLTA Land Trust Achievement Award

The Bruce Trail Conservancy has directly advanced the conservation of habitat, individual species on the Niagara Escarpment through their 10,000 acres of secured land. Successful fundraising campaigns and important relationship building allow the BTC to acquire the necessary funds to secure several key properties annually. BTC’s committed volunteers engage local landowners and build relationships so effectively that the BTC always has multiple securement projects happening at any given time. The BTC is truly a model of securement success for land trusts.

Award was accepted by Carl Alexander and Lynda Vera.

2016 OLTA Land Trust Achievement Award

OLTA Land Trust Achievement Award was presented to rare Charitable Research Reserve for their community outreach.

Stephanie Sobek-Swant, Executive Director and Cheyanne Richardson, Community Stewardship Coordinator accepted the award.




Magnetawan Watershed Land Trust was recognized for their community outreach with the OLTA Land Trust Achievement Award.

The award was accepted by Barry Graham, President and Valerie Fieldwebster, Coordinator.

2015 OLTA Land Trust Achievement Award

HHLTThe OLTA Land Trust Achievement Award was presented to the Haliburton Highlands Land Trust. Sheila Ziman and Paul Heaven accepted this award on behalf of HHLT for their excellent work in developing the “Turtle Road Mortality Mitigation Project”  which is an excellent demonstration of their commitment to community engagement and stewardship.



2011 OLTA Land Trust Achievement Award

Community Achievement Category- Escarpment Biosphere Conservancy (EBC)
The EBC has made enormous contributions to the land trust movement in size and scope of properties protected along the Niagara Escarpment. In thirteen years since their inception, EBC has protected a total of 8,151 acres through the creation of 102 nature reserves.

Provincial Achievement Category- Ontario Farmland Trust (OFT)
The Ontario Farmland Trust has made a substantial contribution to the broader land trust movement. The OFT has created a unique approach in the protection of farmland that extends beyond traditional conservation approaches. The OFT’s programs and conservation work is exemplary in bringing food and farming issues to the forefront.

2010 OLTA Land Trust Achievement Award

Georgian Bay Land Trust is an exemplary land trust demonstrating the power of partnerships in their community. They steward more than 2,000 acres of land trust properties, partner properties and other areas along the eastern shore of Georgian Bay and the North Channel.

Pictured (L to R): Ron Reid, Chair OLTA Awards committee; Wendy Cooper, GBLT Executive Director: Brooks Greer, GBLT Land Protection Program Manager; Peter Cooper, GBLT Fundraising Chair




Pioneering Leaders Award Recipients 2012

In celebration of OTLA’s ten year anniversary in 2012, the special Pioneering Leaders Award was announced to acknowledge outstanding work in the land trust community that has taken years to achieve. We are so honoured to have such dedicated groups and individuals working towards the same goal of land conservation, and are excited to announce the following three recipients of the award.

Photo Credit: David Hawke

Photo Credit: David Hawke

Lou and Judy Probst have been active volunteers for the Couchiching Conservancy and the Nature Conservancy of Canada for over 20 years. They are instrumental in the conservation of significant natural lands on the Carden Plain. Through their careful planning and generosity, they have ensured that future generations of nature lovers will be able to enjoy the natural wonders of the area.

As part of their living legacies they have participated in the ongoing conservation in Carden Township with the following:

Donation of Conservation easement, 100 acres
Donation of McGee Creek and Cranberry Wetland to Nature Conservancy of Canada, 489 acres
Donation of Prospect Marsh to Couchiching Conservancy (in process), 200 acres
Donation of Carden Conservation Fund


ron reid awardRon Reid has made outstanding contributions to biodiversity protection, community engagement, and innovative approaches to advancing the land trust movement in Ontario. Not only has Ron been instrumental in developing creative fundraising projects for the Couchiching Conservancy, Ron has been a guiding mentor and leader in helping new land trusts in Ontario. Ron co-authored “Creative Conservation”, a handbook of key ideas and building blocks for land trusts in Ontario. Ron also has a natural ability to collaborate with a number of organizations outside of the land trust community to strengthen and build the conservation movement.

ormlt award at 2012 olta gatheringThe Oak Ridges Moraine Land Trust (ORMLT) has an outstanding protected land portfolio of 37 properties, totaling 3,317 acres (2012). In 2010, the ORMLT set a land trust record with 26 conservation easements. The ORMLT has pioneered the highly effective use of conservation easements on private land, a model which motivates and mentors other land trusts to pursue their land protection goals with proven tools.



OLTA Community Engagement Award Recipient

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAIn recognition of the enormous passion and dedication of the land trust movement, OLTA‘s 2008 Community Engagement Award recognized the extraordinary achievements of Couchiching Conservancy. Highlights include:

1. Series of community workshops involving quarry owners and ranchers.
2. Partnership with the Orillia Packet and Times who print Couchiching’s full newsletter four times a year.
3. Corporate membership program involving 80 local businesses

Couchiching has taken a challenge – being in a smaller community with more finite resources and fewer larger funders, and turned it into an opportunity in connecting so broadly and at such an intimate level.

Pictured L to R – April Weppler, OLTA Board Chair (Toronto), Ron Reid, Executive Director, Gayle Carlyle, Chair Kyra Howes, Isabelle Thiess, Jane Ball, all Couchiching Conservancy of Orillia.

Past Award Recipient Group Shoots