March 28, 2017

Big Trout Bay: A Conservation Success Fifteen Years In The Making

There’s a reason the Great Lakes are called such—there’s simply no other word to describe this series of lakes that span two countries, eight states and one province. The largest freshwater system in the world, the Great Lakes hold an estimated 6 quadrillion gallons of water—20 percent of the world’s fresh surface water supply and nine-tenths of the United States’ supply.

The lakes and their surrounding landscapes also provide habitat for 20 percent of all fish species in North America and hundreds of millions of migrating birds. A collaboration of conservation partners, led by the Nature Conservancy of Canada, has launched a large-scale international effort to keep these pristine coastal habitats intact and in their natural state, for the benefit of wildlife, people and the economy. Located just minutes from the international border, and 45 minutes from Thunder Bay, Big Trout Bay’s densely forested land is crucial to several native species, including bald eagles and peregrine falcons, which are assessed as a species of special concern by the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada. 

The Nature Conservancy of Canada identified the Lake Superior coast as one of the highest priority areas for conservation in the Great Lakes region. To help achieve their goal of protecting more than 12,500 acres of the most significant habitat along 70 miles of shoreline, The Conservation Fund provided a loan through its Great Lakes Revolving Loan Fund to the Nature Conservancy of Canada for the protection of Trout Bay, the last undeveloped privately-owned bay on Lake Superior’s western shore. 

Trout Bay boasts more than 2,500 acres of undisturbed habitat that supports several rare plant species such as inland bluegrass, western cliff fern and Missouri goldenrod. And its high-quality coastal cliff habitat and dense forests provide a home for wildlife species like the bald eagle and peregrine falcon. In fact, it has one of the highest concentrations of species and natural communities that occurs nowhere else in the Great Lakes region. 

Big Trout Bay is composed mostly of coastal boreal forest. Nearly half of Canada’s bird species rely on boreal habitat, to complete their life cycle, and many of these species migrate throughout the Americas. 

The property also protects 21 kilometers (13 miles) of undeveloped shoreline with towering cliffs, stretches of open bedrock and rugged cobble beach. These shoreline areas are especially important for biodiversity, as they provide varied habitat for species such as bird’s-eye primrose, lake trout and moose. 

A project of this magnitude would have been prohibitively expensive to complete in the U.S., but was possible on the Canadian side of the border thanks to funding from the Government of Canada through the Natural Areas Conservation Program, and with the generous partnership of the JA Woollam Foundation, the Margaret A. Cargill Foundation, the Bobolink Foundation, The Nature Conservancy’s Wisconsin and Minnesota programs, The Conservation Fund, Green Leaf Advisors, The Rogers Foundation and many individual donors in both the United States and Canada. 

“The long journey to acquire this special property was certainly worth it,” says Gary. “For over 10 years NCC worked to acquire Big Trout Bay. With the support of generous and concerned supporters we made it happen.”

Through partnerships on both sides of the border, NCC will ensure that this stunning example of North American natural heritage remains a home for wildlife, a haven for recreation and provide vital sustenance to the Great Lakes Basin on which the U.S. and Canada both rely so heavily.

“Lake Superior’s Big Trout Bay, McKellar Point and Pine Point represent the last unsecured Great Lakes wilderness on the continent — truly a global gem,” said Tom Duffus, midwest vice president for The Conservation Fund, which provided bridge financing as well as transactional and fundraising assistance to NCC via its Great Lakes Revolving Fund. “After more than 15 years of work personally on this project, I understand the importance of preserving the natural view the Voyageurs saw and, equally as important, the ecosystems that have sustained First Nations for generations.”

“The Nature Conservancy is proud to support this bi-national effort to protect the Great Lakes. Protection of the land at Big Trout Bay builds on other Great Lakes conservation successes including St. Martin Island in Lake Michigan and Clough Island in Lake Superior’s St. Louis River Estuary,” said Mary Jean Huston, who directs The Nature Conservancy’s work in Wisconsin. “Working together, we can keep the Great Lakes beautiful, healthy and productive today and for generations to come.”

“This was a massive international undertaking,” says James Duncan, vice-president in Ontario with NCC. “But when faced with the potential loss of habitat and wildlife on the largest freshwater lake in the world, thinking big is essential. It’s an extraordinary opportunity to make substantive and tangible progress on our overall goal of protecting the Superior north shore.”

“Big Trout Bay is certainly big in name and importance,” says Gary Davies, program director for northwestern Ontario. “The area has seen a lot of shoreline development over the past few decades. Ecologically it is home to incredible vistas and important habitat for a variety of boreal species such as lynx and moose.”

About The Nature Conservancy of Canada
The Nature Conservancy of Canada ( leads and inspires others to join us in creating a legacy for future generations by conserving important natural areas and biological diversity across all regions of Canada.

About The Conservation Fund
At The Conservation Fund, we make conservation work for America. By creating solutions that make environmental and economic sense, we are redefining conservation to demonstrate its essential role in our future prosperity. Top-ranked for efficiency and effectiveness, we have worked in all 50 states to protect more than 7.8 million acres of land since 1985.

Press Release Contacts
Nicole Senyi | The Nature Conservancy of Canada | 416-937-5079 | 
Ann Simonelli | The Conservation Fund | 703-908-5809 |