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Wilson Island Archipelago Protected Rossport


THUNDER BAY, ONTARIO,  ROSSPORT, ONTARIO,  -------  September 27, 2009  -----  The Nature Conservancy CanadaWilson Islands, eight-island archipelago just off Rossport Ontario near Nipigon Bay, Lake Superior  have been purchased from private owners and will become a Canadian federal natural area under the joint deal backed by the Nature Conservancy, government of Canada and government of Ontario.

Wilson Island group is a cluster of eight islands. Wilson is by far the largest island, and has north-facing cliffs on water and land, canyons, raised basalt beaches and an unexplored interior. These qualities provide suitable habitat for peregrine falcons and bald eagles. The cool marine climate supports a number of arctic-alpine species and vegetation communities particular to this region. Wilson Island's coves, coldwater beaches and rare coastal wetlands provide essential habitat for lake trout and whitefish.


Wilson Island Archipelago

 The Nature Conservancy of Canada (NCC) joins with its partners in celebrating the protection of the Wilson Island group near Rossport, Ontario. This $7.4-million binational initiative is the largest (based on dollar value) conservation project ever completed in Ontario. The landmark acquisition in northwestern Ontario will preserve habitat and species at risk for the long term. It was made possible with significant funding support from the Government of Canada under the Natural Areas Conservation Program, the Province of Ontario and The Nature Conservancy (TNC, based in the United States).

The Nature Conservancy and NCC have identified the Northwestern Lake Superior Coast as a high priority for conservation action based on the binational Great Lakes Conservation Blueprint for Aquatic Biodiversity. The NCC/TNC collaboration allowed the two organizations to negotiate the deal for Wilson Island with an American vendor and raise private donations from U.S. donors and foundations to secure a large area of undeveloped Great Lakes Shoreline — an increasingly rare opportunity.

This deal has strong support from the Pays Plat First Nation, whose people have a deep cultural interest in this natural gem. The Nature Conservancy of Canada will work cooperatively with the Pays Plat First Nation to conduct biological and cultural inventories of the islands and ensure the long-standing Aboriginal traditions will be maintained for generations to come.

The eight islands in the Wilson Island cluster total more than 4,700 acres (1,900 hectares). They are situated in the heart of the recently established Lake Superior National Marine Conservation Area — the largest protected freshwater area on the planet. Wilson Island’s high cliffs provide nesting habitat for Peregrine Falcons and Bald Eagles, while the smaller offshore islands provide important nesting habitat for colonial waterbirds. The rare coastal wetlands and forests, rugged cliffs, bedrock shoreline and globally rare sand beaches of the islands support rare species such as Mountain Fir-moss and Northern Woodsia fern.

The Wilson Island group presented an unmatched opportunity to protect large-scale, ecologically significant and relatively untouched habitat,” remarked NCC’s Chris Maher, regional vice-president, Ontario. "This project has been on the conservation community’s wish list for many years, and the joint effort to protect this island group has been crucial its success.”

"This project represents a major step forward in our binational effort to conserve the Great Lakes 'vanishing coastal areas',” said Dennis McGrath, Michigan's assistant state director for The Nature Conservancy. "This project is important not just to Canada, but to the entire Great Lakes region."

“The Government of Canada is very proud of its partnership with organizations like the Nature Conservancy of Canada because of our shared commitment to conserving biological diversity,” said Minister Prentice.  “With our investment of $225 million in Environment Canada’s Natural Areas Conservation Program, the government is taking real action to ensure a healthy future for species at risk and for sensitive ecosystems like those found at Wilson Island.”

Donna Cansfield MNR"Protecting rare landscapes and species across Ontario is vital to ensure we conserve the province's biodiversity and pass on a healthy environment to future generations," said Ontario Natural Resources Minister Donna Cansfield. "The Wilson Islands project has brought together partners on both sides of the Canada-U.S. border to secure an important part of our natural heritage." 


  • The eight islands total more than 4,700 acres (1,900 hectares).
  • This is the largest (by dollar value) conservation project ever completed in the province of Ontario.
  • The acquired Wilson Island group includes Wilson Island, Barr Island and six smaller Islands.
  • Lake Superior is the largest of the Great Lakes.


Learn More

The Nature Conservancy of Canada (NCC) is Canada’s leading land conservation organization. Since 1962, NCC has helped to protect more than 2 million acres (8.100 square kilometres) of ecologically significant land nationwide. www.natureconservancy.ca

Wilson Islands at Rossport Acquired.
James R. Stevens, Shuniah, Ontario

The Nature Conservatory of Canada with Federal money from the Ministry of Environment in Ottawa recently purchased 1,900 hectares of private islands off Rossport, Ontario on the north Canadian shore of Lake Superior. The land once owned by Abitibi was purchased by an American owner for a reported $2,000,000 almost a decade ago.

The 2009 price is listed as $7,400,000, a profitable transaction for the owner. Most lake lovers will, however, applaud the action. The islands once partially logged up to the 1950’s are pristine and wondrous in molded and torn up geology. The long held rumor that a hotel might be constructed on Wilson can be put to rest.

Wilson Island lies in an easterly chain of islands stretching from Thunder Cape—The Sleeping Giant—over a hundred miles to the Slate Islands. Wilson Island is not the monster in this spread of Lake Superior islands. That honor is held by St. Ignace and Simpson Island. Wilson like all these boreal islands tempered by the cold waters of Superior have majesty. Perhaps hiking trails will come to the splendor in Wilson’s interior terrain. The nature of what development may proceed at Wilson is undetermined.

Wilson and the whole of Lake Superior’s shoreline are under the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources as a conservation area called The Great Lakes Heritage Coastline. A large chunk of the Heritage Coastline now contains in a Parks Canada National Marine Conservation Area. That puts three government departments in the mix for decision-making and their respective advisory boards. Spread across the area are municipal people at Terrace Bay, Schrieber, Rossport Village, Pays Plat Reserve, Nipigon, Lake Helen Reserve, Red Rock and the Municipality of Shuniah. One can only wonder if there will be effective coordination in creating some economic benefits for the people who love living beside the Superior Great Lake.

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