Haliburton forest becomes first in Canada to receive new OECM designation

Photo of Haliburton forest on a bright and sunny day, marshy lake with blue waster and trees in the distance Photo by Kristyn Ferguson/Nature Conservancy of Canada

A privately owned old-growth forest near Haliburton, Ont., is becoming the first in Canada to receive conservation status under a new special designation.

The South Freezy Lake old-growth forest is owned by Haliburton Forest and Wild Life Reserve, a logging company that supports forest conservation and sustainability by protecting some of its lands from timber harvesting and industrial activity. In collaboration with the Nature Conservancy of Canada, Haliburton Forest announced that it will designate its South Freezy Lake site as an Other Effective area-based Conservation Measure (OECM). 

OECMs are a new category of conservation that recognizes the protection and conservation efforts made by private businesses and landowners. An OECM designation is the same as a protected land designation, but it specifically highlights areas where conservation has been achieved without that being the primary purpose of the site. In the case of Haliburton Forest, South Freezy Lake was originally intended for logging until the company suspended operations in the area and chose to protect the forest. 

The South Freezy Lake forest is home to trees that are more than 150 years old. The area is known for its sugar maple, eastern hemlock, American beech, and white pine trees that will now receive conservation status and lasting biodiversity protection. The public will continue to have access to Haliburton Forest lands for hiking, biking, birdwatching, and other recreational activities. 

The forest has been recognized by both the provincial and federal governments as conserved land. It has been entered into Canada’s Protected and Conserved Areas Database, which is used to monitor Canada’s progress toward protecting its lands and waters. The current target is that 30 per cent of Canada’s land and waterways will be protected by 2030. As of December 2022, only 13.6 per cent of Canada’s land and 15 per cent of its waters are listed as protected.

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