Conserving the Algoma Highlands

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Some 2 ½ billion years ago, the greatest mountains in North America were not the Rockies or the Appalachians, but a range that sprawled across eastern Canada. Today, the legacy of these ancient peaks is represented by the stunning bluffs and canyons of the Algoma Highlands. In fact, the highlands are a living textbook of the Canadian Shield, mountains worn down by time. Here lie some of the oldest rocks in the world; waterfalls created from land still rebounding from the weight of the last great glaciers 10,000 years ago; lakes and woodlands of incredible natural beauty; and a diverse array of wildlife and plant species, including some which are provincially rare.

The Algoma Highlands are dominated by King Mountain, a massif towering over 1,300 ft or 400 m above the elevation of Lake Superior. From the Peterson hut on the summit of King Mountain, spectacular views of the highlands area can be enjoyed through all four seasons. In mid-winter, the area has a particular beauty, blanketed in an ermine white coat of newly fallen snow. In the fall, the forests are afire with reds and yellows of maple, oak and aspen, offset by the deep forest greens of spruce, fir and the majestic white pine. These are the scenes and viewscapes which have intrigued and inspired generations of artists and photographers from the world over, including the world renowned “Group of Seven”.

From the summit of King Mountain, we can also view some of the islands and bays of Lake Superior, the largest fresh water lake in the world. The proximity of this great inland sea and particularly the spectacular northeast coastline, add another unique dimension to the Algoma Highlands area. Those of us fortunate enough to call this area home, cherish it as a natural endowment, worthy of protection and conservation efforts, but yet accessible for use by locals and visitor alike. This is in keeping with our philosophy of sharing these natural wonders with others.

Our philosophy has historic linkage with that of First Nations peoples and early European settlers who lived for hundreds of years in relative harmony with nature in this area. Contrary to popular perception, the Algoma Highlands area has not been a true “wilderness” for quite some time. Remnant artifacts associated with both natives and subsequent pioneers, all of whom lived, trapped, logged and mined in the area, may still be found here and on the nearby shores of Lake Superior. Despite extensive human use of the region, it remains predominately wild and natural in appearance, as reflected in the lakes, ponds and streams within. For all of us, it is and should remain, an area in which mind, body and soul can be replenished amidst a truly spectacular natural setting.

Working from this philosophy of harmonizing with the natural world, the Algoma Highlands Conservancy (AHC) seeks to facilitate human access and use of this area while minimizing potential negative impacts on ecological integrity. We are particularly concerned with conservation of suitable habitat for iconic wildlife species such as moose, black bear, wolves, beavers and loons which also call this area home. Of course, conservation of critical habitat for less conspicuous species, such as salamanders, otters, and a wide variety of forest birds is of equal importance. A number of relatively uncommon animal species such as the eastern wolf, bald eagle, and peregrine falcon, which all frequent the area, garner our specific attention.

Of course, plants are critical elements of this ecosystem as well. In addition to the mixed-woods which dominate the over-story of the highlands, the under-story boasts an incredible array of plant species including showy wildflowers such as Dutchman’s Breeches and the aptly named Spring Beauty. In fact, the area is known to support several relatively rare species including the Oval-Leafed Bilberry, Wild Licorice and Braun’s Holly Fern.

The AHC currently owns over 1200 ha (3000 acres) of land in the vicinity of King Mountain. In late 2009, after more than two years of exhaustive fundraising through the Legacy Lands Campaign, the Algoma Highlands Conservancy purchased 1050 ha (2600 acres) contiguous with our smaller holdings at Robertson Lake Cliffs and “Norm’s Cabin” on Bone Lake. This consolidation of our conservation forest ensured that the unique beauty and ecological integrity of the area will be conserved and transferred undiminished as our legacy gift to the next generation and beyond. We invite all silent sport enthusiasts and those that simply enjoy and appreciate the serenity of our natural world, to spend time in this unique and spectacularly beautiful section of northern Ontario!

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