An Announcement 10 Years in the Making

It is with pride and elation that the Algoma Highlands Conservancy can finally share the thrilling news of our DEBT-FREE status!  Today, the AHC is a thriving and dynamic organization that protects and enhances natural, recreational and educational values in the Algoma Region.  We fully recognize and acknowledge that our achievements; past, present and future, are thanks to the support from countless donors, foundations, organizations and volunteers!

Our current land holdings include over 1200 hectares of contiguous conservation forest just north of Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario.  The fee-simple acquisition of the $1.5 million King Mountain Property was quite possibly our biggest accomplishment since inception.  To close on the time-sensitive purchase in late 2007, we took on a mortgage loan of just over $280,000.  For nearly a decade, our dedicated leaders have sought out and secured support to pay off this debt, which began with applications to grant programs and foundations.  In 2011, our efforts shifted to a targeted fundraising campaign, known as Foster a Forest, which successfully eliminated well over $120,000 of the balance.

With the official retirement of our debt, the Conservancy’s future couldn’t be brighter and we promise to continue striving to attract resources necessary to sustain and expand the our programs and operations well into the future!

2015 Annual Report

On February 4th 2017, Algoma Highlands Conservancy Board of Directors and Members gathered at Stokely Creek Lodge for the 2015 Annual General Meeting (AGM).  In keeping with the AHC’s bylaws, the formalized meeting involved voting for the approval of such things as the 2014 AGM Minutes, the 2015 Annual Report, and the AHC’s Executive panel and Accountants. After the important governance business was complete, everyone enjoyed a wonderful feast in Stokely’s cozy dining room!  The 2015 Annual Report is now available here!


AHC Seeks Volunteer Bookkeeper

Are you interested in serving your community by becoming a part of this small but active organization with values firmly rooted in conservation, environmental education, scientific research and silent sport recreation?  If so, we are currently looking for a dedicated volunteer with experience and background in bookkeeping & financial reporting, particularly for non-profit and/or charitable organizations.  Proficiency with the accounting software QuickBooks is essential.  The time commitment is estimated to be around 6-8 hours per month.  If this opportunity appeals to you, please contact our Treasurer, Bob Beggs at 705 253 7417 for more information!


A fond farewell to an exceptional Board Member

Although we had over a year’s notice of Dean Thompson’s impending resignation from the Algoma Highlands Conservancy’s Board of Directors, we still cannot fully come to terms with losing him from our team.  Dean’s volunteer contributions since joining the AHC’s Board of Directors in 2006 are incalculable.  His vision, dedication and hard work have been a driving force behind the AHC’s growth and vibrancy over the last 10 years.  No matter the achievement, you can bet that Dean was not only involved, but likely playing a critical roll in it.

Dean, we were lucky to have you as long as we did and although you will no longer be directly involved in governance and operations, we know the AHC will continue to benefit from your longstanding dedication for years to come. Thank you so much for all the things you have done for the AHC!

We hope that Dean won’t mind us sharing sections of his resignation letter in this message, as it perfectly demonstrates his kind and generous nature.

Dean Thompson’s Message to the Board:

“….I want to express my gratitude for the privilege of working with you all and being part of this great local organization over the last decade.  Looking back, although we have certainly endured some serious challenges and tribulations, the AHC can definitely claim some major successes and I believe it has a very bright future ahead.

Among those success stories, the Environmental Education Program, stands out as having the broadest uptake and the greatest potential for sustained positive change in the local community.  I know for sure that Shannon (Ramsay) is having an indelible influence on the environmental awareness and thinking of the myriad students she interacts with.  The imminent retirement of the King Mountain property mortgage such that the AHC owns it free and clear, is also an incredible achievement.  That demonstrates, in a very tangible and perpetual way, that seemingly unreachable heights can be achieved, it just takes a lot of effort and persistence, as so well exemplified by Doug (Pitt)’s continuous commitment to this project.  Our efforts in conservation research are really starting to shine as well, thanks largely to Jen (Cross)’ keen interest, abilities and willingness to go beyond the normal call of duty.  I know that the local Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry is already using data from the Wood Turtle project to ensure continued protection of the local populations of this Species at Risk.  Although the new Norm’s Cabin remains our best kept secret, I still believe it will ultimately be recognized not only as an AHC legacy and capital asset, but also as a facility that will see multiple use in all four seasons and facilitating further development of all four of our core goals.  In that regard, I specifically want to recognize the continuous and ongoing commitment of Paul and Laurie McBay  and to Gaylen Byker, all of whom played critical roles in realizing this success.

As I leave the board, I feel it is structured with an appropriate mix of “old blood” to lend experience and perspective, as well as “new blood” to fulfill the insatiable demand for personal energies and new ideas.   Under Elisa (Muto)’s very dedicated and competent leadership, the AHC is very well-positioned for continued success and impact in all focal areas – conservation biology, environmental education, silent sport recreation and promotion of sustainable land management.  I look forward to reading all about future successes on the website, albeit mostly from afar.

“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, that’s the only thing that ever has.”   – Margaret  Mead

I wish all of you associated with the AHC, either directly or indirectly, the very best of luck in ongoing and future efforts that will continue to demonstrate the veracity of that beautiful little quote.”

AHC Summer 2016 Newsletter!

If you like keeping up to date with what the Algoma Highland Conservancy has been accomplishing lately make sure you take a read of our latest AHC Summer Newsletter. Just click that link, and enjoy!

If you would like to personally receive our bi-annual Newsletter follow the link “Join our Email List” below. We will make sure you are added to our email blast!

Spring Gear Swap Swamp; Film Festival Fundraiser!

It’s almost time again for the Algoma Highlands Conservancy and Sault College Adventure Recreation and Parks students in our fourth annual Gear-Swap/Waterwalker Film Festival fundraiser! It’s fun and easy!

Bring your outdoor gear to sell during the drop-off time, and/or come to the sale and take advantage of some great deals! You can buy and sell lightly used outdoor recreational gear, such as bikes, kayaks, camping gear, hiking equipment/accessories and much more!

Gear from students, community members, and local businesses will be for sale. You set the price and our volunteers will provide the forum for sale and collect cash and cheque payments. When it’s all over, we will provide you with a cheque based on total gear sales, less 15% of proceeds (10% for commercial sellers), which will go to fund AHC’s operations. We are interested in all new /gently used gear related to non-winter silent sports.

So mark your calendars and dust off your silent sport recreation paraphernalia!

Location: Gear Drop Off, Film Festival AND Gear Swap all in the Essar Hall, Sault College (Main entrance off Northern Ave.), parking available
Dropoff: Friday April 22 2016, 5:00 pm – 9:00 pm
Film Festival: Friday April 22 2016, 7:00 pm ($10 at the door)

Sale: Saturday April 23 2016, 9:00 am – 12:00 pm
Pickup of unsold items: Saturday April 23 2016, 12:00 pm – 2:00 pm
Donations accepted
Questions: 705-759-2554 ext. 2461

Click here to find out more

Exploring Environmental Education

It was a  sunny cold day when Shannon Ramsay of the Algoma Highlands Conservancy’s Environmental Education introduced me to her work. From hiking in the summer to snowshoeing in the winter, there is always an adventure planned for the students of the Algoma District School Board (ADSB). Classes are funded by the ADSB, brought out to the conservation and given an outdoor connection while learning valuable curriculum.

The Algoma Highlands Conservancy first formed the program through a successful Ontario Trillium several years ago, and every year it continues to grow. In 2014, 41 classes visited throughout the school year.  With an estimate of 24 students per visit, that would add to approximately 984 ADSB students visiting this outdoor classroom over the school year.

In June of 2014, the AHC was in the search for a facilitator for this Environmental Education program. Shannon, having a background in an outdoor-ed based school, came to learn of this one of a kind program through a mutual connection between her and the conservation. Having taught previously in the ADSB,  and having previously worked with outdoor education curricula, the AHC had a feeling that Shannon would be a great match.

Algoma’s winters don’t phase this program. Shannon checks in with teachers to make sure everyone is dressed for the weather and classes still make their way out for their day of outdoor learning. She even has extra winter gear stocked for her program for the just-in-case scenarios.

Students arrive to a log day skier’s cabin out at Stokely Creek Lodge by 10:00 am and come inside to a lit fire and warmed classroom. Introductions then follow. They start with “What is AHC?” and education like “Leave No Trace”. Lead up activities such as discussing bird behavior and identification follow introductions. Samples of wood that has been affected by wood boring beetles, or logs with cavities in them that have been excavated by birds are brought in for analysis and discussion. She makes sure to tie it all in to the question:“What makes up a healthy forest eco-system?”.

Shannon believes it’s really important to draw out the student’s knowledge base first to see what they already know and find out what they want to further learn about. There is a quick lesson on snowshoes – looking at linking animal bodies to snowshoes. Shannon has a gift with teaching the natural elements and is able to take ecological facts and link them with experiential learning. Everyone straps on a pair of shoes and the class begins the outdoor component. They explore different areas along the creek, such as the riparian zone up into the highlands, and look for evidence of birds and other animals. Everything is tied to sustainable forestry and how these forests are so important.

In previous years, tree identification and animal track identification were the focus of learning in the program. Shannon notes that it is truly rewarding to see students that  remember and come back building on the knowledge gained from past programming weaving it all into the new information being learned.

It is now lunch and the students return to the cabin. In the afternoon the students get to enjoy a field game that they have named Animal Survival. During their lunch the students learn first concepts of the game and how it will play out. They learned about how energy flows through an ecosystem. Things such as: producers, consumers, decomposers, herbi, omni, and carni-vores and their roles in an ecosystem. Everyone heads outside. Parts of the forest have been flagged off. The students take on the roles of specific animals and then are set ‘free” in woods. They required to look for food and water, all while avoiding being eaten, unless they are a carnivore. Then they are hunting. Adults/teachers take on roles of humans as hunters and healers. Disaster and disease are incorporated into the play. This game helps build an understanding of how food webs work and really brings it to life.

After a while of fun and play, the day draws to an end.  It’s nearing 2:00 pm and it is time for everyone to head back to town. It can be a very physical day outdoors for the groups that come out. The students are filled to the brim with new knowledge, information, and are exhausted. Some have even been known to fall asleep on the bus back to school!

Enjoyed reading this blog? Check out this video done by Local2 for more!

AHC Winter 2015 Newsletter

Have you been keeping up to date with what we have been accomplishing lately ? Make sure you take a read of our AHC Winter 2015 Newsletter. If you would like to personally receive our bi-annual Newsletter follow the link “Join our Email List” below.

Welcome to the team!

The Algoma Highlands Conservancy would like to formally introduce to you Carly Breckenridge, the newest member of our team.

She’s our Eco-Tourism Business Intern and will be with us for the next 12 months.

Carly has had previous experience with Eco-tourism having a background with the Coalition for Algoma Passenger Trains (CAPT) working as their Event Coordinator with the Group of Seven & Glenn Gould Train Event. A recent graduate from the Community, Economic, and Social Development (CESD) program at Algoma University, she has a good sense of what environmental sustainability means and her values fit within what the AHC strives to achieve. She has also worked with organizations such as Northern Ontario Research, Development, Ideas and Knowledge (NORDIK) Institute and has created her own work through applying for grants through Canada Summer Jobs. With having worked with organizations that are comparable to the AHC’s mandate, as well as sharing the same values that we hold dear, we’ve come to decide that Carly would be a great fit here.

She will be focusing on the development of Norm’s Cabin as an eco-business, gaining client interest in booking reservations.  Her skills will play a valuable role in stimulating the cabin into a viable self-sustaining business and we look forward to seeing what’s to come.

So, welcome Carly, and just remember “Every accomplishment starts with the decision to try”.

Message from Executive Director Jennifer Cross

Dear friends,

I’ll admit that I’ve avoided writing this letter for some time now.  I’m sitting her in Algoma Highlands Conservancy’s office with its big picture windows overlooking Stokely Creek, surrounded by mature maple forest, thinking, “How did I get so lucky to work here?”.  I informed the Board back in May of my plans to move to Alaska and the time has come for me to leave.  I’m not a very creative writer, so I don’t feel I can adequately describe how amazing these past 5 years have been.  My husband and I jokingly say to each other, “Words are tough” whenever one of us stumbles verbally.  Boy, he would love seeing me squirm right about now!
Working for the AHC has challenged me from the very beginning, which was back in December 2009.  My background was almost purely natural resources research and fieldwork, so I’ll never forget how incompetent and overwhelmed I felt when one of my first tasks was to write a grant proposal.  I’ll also never forget how elated and proud I felt when that proposal was approved!  That rewarding experience has happened to me over and over again with the AHC.  Working for a small non-profit organization often involves an “all encompassing” job description, from office administration/project management, to fieldwork and fundraising.  Never a dull moment!  The AHC is a wonderful community-driven entity.  The land we protect is open for the public to enjoy and everything we do is for the betterment of current and future generations.  Who wouldn’t want to be a part of that?
I want to take a moment to thank all of the AHC supporters (including our advocates, volunteers and donors).  Without you, there would be no AHC, plain and simple.  Seeing, firsthand, the generosity and passion in so many of you has made me a better person, and I’ll be eternally grateful for that!  I want to thank the Board of Directors for always keeping me busy and never failing to make me feel appreciated.  I specifically want to thank my mentor and friend, Board member Dean Thompson, for being there to help me succeed no matter how full his plate was!
The Algoma Highlands Conservancy will always hold a special place in my heart.  I plan to stay involved and help out in what ever way I can (remotely) as a Board member beginning in the New Year.
Jen Cross Signature