Nature Conservancy Canada has purchased a 163-acre patch of land on the south side of Caribou Island.
A spokesman for the environmental group on Wednesday said the property drew their interest because the north shore of Lake Superior is one of the last wilderness coastal areas left on the Great Lakes.
“It’s an area of really high conservation values in terms of rare plants and rare animals,” said James Duncan, NCC’s regional vice-president for Ontario.
“It’s nesting area for peregrine falcons as well as some bald eagles and some unique plants.”
The public likely won’t notice too much difference. Duncan said public access will still be in place, though they may reroute a trail or two.
“We’ve been working with the community. We had great support from the Paterson Foundation for the project,” Duncan said. “We understand the community values this just as we do. Public access will continue. We’ll be putting together a management plan over the next few months, just to determine if there are areas we need to have more sensitive use of.”
The island, located to the southeast of Amethyst Harbour, about 25 kilometres from Thunder Bay, is a combination of mixed forests, exposed bedrock bluffs and beaches, featuring 2.4 kilometres of Lake Superior frontage, described by the group as an oasis for rarer plant and animal species, including Braun’s holly fern and scabrous back sedge.
“What we’ve been doing right now is an inventory of what species are there and if there are rare species or species that are disturbance-sensitive, we would re-route trails or figure out how to make sure any disturbance is minimized,” Duncan said.
He added he’s aware the south side of Caribou Island is popular with locals for hiking and picnics.
“And again, that’s all to continue as it has been,” said Duncan, adding the total budget for the project, including the land purchase, is about $400,000.
Paterson Foundation spokesman Alexander Paterson said his organization was glad to be able to lend a helping hand to the NCC’s efforts.
“I personally have been working on an opportunity to see Caribou Island preserved in its natural state for over 20 years and have been visiting the island since I was a child,” Paterson said in a release.
“The fact that the south side of the island will remain a natural conservation land in perpetuity excites me to no end.”
The project also received support from the federal government’s Natural Area Conservation Program.
NCC, a leading land conservation organization, has helped protect more than 2.6 million acres coast to coast, including about 72,034 hectares in Ontario alone.
Duncan said they plan to look at other Northwestern Ontario properties in the near future.