Advisory Council

History and Purpose: The Council was formed in 2016 to help achieve multiple goals. These include engaging experts in birds, plants, and other fauna and flora on the Conservancy’s behalf, boosting the Conservancy’s profile in the GTA, and helping further expand our profile in the region. Other important objectives are to help increase the Conservancy’s fundraising outreach and results with foundations and individuals, and to undertake selected research as appropriate to assist Conservancy initiatives.

Members of the Advisory Council (AC):

  • offer increased linkages and profile in the region, in the GTA, and in the university community;
  • help broaden and deepen the already considerable resources of the Conservancy from its staff, board, and volunteers; and
  • have already demonstrated significant benefits as the AC has boosted the following areas:
  • Outreach– AC members have
    • Added to or boosted the Conservancy’s relationships with universities, government and non-profit conservation entities and programs
    • Made the featured presentations at the fall 2017 and 2018 Toronto events
      • Identifying and explaining unique flora of the Alvar,
      • Highlighting birding in the Carden Alvar; and
      • Offering a landowner’s perspective on working with the Conservancy on an easement
  • Shared expertise and time as well as inspired Conservancy members’ engagement by leading Passport to Nature events in 2017 and 2018 to explore wilderness of the Carden Alvar and Washago region.
  • Fundraising – the AC
    • was instrumental in attracting:
      • $26,000 in renewed grants from two foundations in 2018
      • $150,000 from two foundations in 2017 in support of the Black River Wildlands acquisition
      • $16,000 from a new foundation supporter in the summer of 2017 and
      • Assisted in renewing $10,000 from a foundation in 2016;
    • Donated $25,000 in 2017 to the Black River Wildlands acquisition campaign; and
    • Provided boosts to fundraising in 2016 and 2018 with a $5,000 challenge gift if we added 25 new monthly donors – we successfully met these challenges!

Advisory Council Members:

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James K. Stewart, Co-Chair

James (Jason) Stewart has been extensively involved in fundraising and other volunteer work for charities since the 1980s, and in helping conservation causes for many years. Jason is the former volunteer president of a major Canadian health research foundation and of a Canadian charity supporting conservation and community development of a leading wildlife conservancy in East Africa. He is a board member of Earth Rangers, the International Conservation Fund of Canada (ICFC), and The Youssef-Warren Foundation. In business, Jason has worked in financial markets, policy and research since the early 1980s.


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Doug Varty, Co-Chair

Doug was an audit partner with KPMG and spent his 32+ year professional career with the firm in the GTA.  Giving back to the community has always been central to Doug’s personal and professional life and over the years he has been involved in many charities and NPO’s. He is currently a Board member (Ontario) of the Nature Conservancy of Canada and Chairs their Leaders in Conservation program. New to the Couchiching area, Doug and his wife Charon have become supporters of the CC and are involved in the Citizen Science program.  Doug also chairs of the CC’s Development Committee.  He is also an active Board member of the Soldiers Memorial Hospital Foundation and the Community Foundation of Orillia and Area.  In his spare time, he does freelance business and financial consulting.


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Robert Sullivan

Bob is a dentist who has practiced in Orillia for over 30 years. He has served on numerous boards and committees locally and provincially associated with his profession. Currently he is serving in his 10th year on the board of directors of the Conservancy and is a past president of the organization. He acts as chairman of the investment committee and also is a member of the past presidents Heartwood Fund committee. A keen interest in environmental awareness and land protection are the reason his planning and management skills have been invaluable on the Board. He and his wife Wendy are proud parents of 3 children and 5 grandchildren.


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Jean Iron

Jean of Toronto was president of the Ontario Field Ornithologists (OFO) from 1995 to 2004 and editor of OFO News for 14 years. Jean received the Distinguished Ornithologist Award in 2016, and the Toronto Ornithological Club granted her Honorary Life Membership. She represented OFO on a team with The Nature Conservancy of Canada and The Couchiching Conservancy to purchase the Cameron and Windmill Ranches, leading to the establishment of Carden Alvar Provincial Park. A retired school principal, Jean now volunteers for Canadian Wildlife Service doing shorebird surveys on James Bay, and works as a guide for Quest Nature Tours.

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Dr. Richard Johnston

Wendy and Richard moved here in 1974  when he finished his specialty in Obstetrics and Gynecology at McMaster. They fell in love immediately with the beautiful natural surroundings of North Simcoe and the beautiful people who have such a strong sense of community and volunteerism. Richard has served a number of Boards, some which were related to his profession and others related to the community including the Board of the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons, as well as Board chair of St Paul’s United church. Richard feels that The Couchiching Conservancy has an outstanding reputation that it should rightly be very proud of and he is very pleased to be joining this very dedicated, knowledgeable group of community volunteers.


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Ellen Larsen

Almost 30 years ago Ellen found a weekend property in Carden and subsequently became aware of the amazing geological and biological diversity she had stumbled into. Upon retirement from the University of Toronto, Ellen had been spending almost all her time in the country as an amateur naturalist, and has long supported the work of the Couchiching Conservancy.  In addition to the Carden Field Naturalists and Kawartha Field Naturalists she is also a member of the Brodie Club in Toronto.

Although her professional research was in the genetics, development and evolutionary biology of fruit flies, Ellen currently devotes most of her efforts to various aspects of local lichen biology and sex variation in the semi-aquatic Arrowhead plant.


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Bill Swinimer

William(Bill) Swinimer moved to Orillia with his family in 1972 where he was just appointed manager of Scotiabank. After a career that included founding his own company, Uniplast Industries, Bill joined some Charitable Boards that included Soldiers Memorial Hospital for 3 years, The Hospital Foundation for 6 years and currently the Community Foundation of Orillia and area. Everyone in his family is, and always was, lovers of nature and supporters of the environment.  He and his wife  Sue have three children and 7 grandchildren.


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Dagmar Teubner

Dagmar brings a passion for conservation and the environment together with an important additional skills set to the AC. She adds to the already considerable expertise and experience of our membership. Dagmar provided the following when I asked for a brief description of her professional background and of her passion for conservation:

“While I live and breathe commercial real estate development, relying on my skills as a lawyer and CA/CPA, I have a continuous love for our wonderful planet and all that lives and grows upon it.  In my own small way, I do all that can be done to preserve and protect the marvels, big and small, that the Earth has to offer.”


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Dale Leadbeater

Dale A. Leadbeater, B.Sc., B.Ed., R.P.Bio., P.Biol., graduated from the University of Toronto, then worked in the Botany Department where she administered the Green Plant Herbarium.  A Field Associate of the Royal Ontario Museum and life member of the Field Botanists of Ontario, she has presented talks on many natural heritage topics, organized conferences and led outings as well as teaching Ecological Land Classification. An enthusiastic supporter of Land Trusts, Dale lives on a 200-acre Conservation Easement near Kirkfield.


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Michael Drescher

Michael Drescher is Associate Professor in the School of Planning at the University of Waterloo. He holds an MSc from the University of Utrecht (Netherlands) and a PhD from the University of Wageningen (Netherlands). Trained in forest ecology and animal behaviour science, he now focuses much of his research on regional conservation planning and private land conservation. A native of Germany, he has spent many years in the Netherlands and South Africa before emigrating to Canada. Michael is concerned about the wise and sustainable use of natural resources, acknowledging the importance of economic, social and environmental dimensions. Michael has provided professional advice to various organizations including Carolinian Canada, the Hamilton Conservation Authority, the Ontario Land Trust Alliance, and the Smart Prosperity Institute.

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David Warren

In 2017, David officially retired with over 50 years business experience of which the last 37 years were directly involved with Commercial Real Estate (corporate, office building development and brokerage) in Canada and the USA.  From 1995 to 2017 David was a registered Broker, Principal and EVP with the international commercial real estate firm, Avison Young Commercial Real Estate Inc.  In his retirement David keeps his license active with Moffat Dunlap Real Estate Ltd. (King City) acting in a consultant role.  Moffat Dunlap RE is a boutique Brokerage, handling mostly large estate properties and Georgian Bay properties.

Over his career, David has been extensively involved in the not-for-profit sector.  He has served as Chair of the Canadian Hearing Society Foundation; Co-Chair of the Toronto Zoo Foundation; Citizen Member of the Board of Management of the Toronto Zoo; Co-Chair for the Canadian Breast Cancer Foundation; board member of the Mono Mulmur Citizens Coalition in Dufferin County; and more recently Board Member and Chair of the Leadership in Conservation Program (2006-2016)) of Nature Conservancy Canada (Ontario Region).

David is married to Cheri. They reside (since July 2017) in the new Braestone Development in Oro Medonte, while keeping ties with Toronto.  David & Cheri have lived in London, Toronto, Montreal, and Calgary over their 48-year marriage.  They have three children and 6 grandchildren.


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Pamela Fulford

I am a biologist with a Bachelor of Science degree and worked for the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources as a biologist on Lake Simcoe, at Maple District Office and Aurora District Office in the GTA. I worked closely with provincial and municipal planning staff over a span of two decades, examining, reviewing and commenting on upper level municipal Official Plan Amendments, Secondary Plans, Provincial Policies, and Environmental Assessments. I worked closely with other provincial ministries and their policies. Over my career, I have worked for a lower tier municipal government (Township of King), an upper tier municipal government (York Region), Provincial ministries (Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry) and other agencies (Rouge Park).

In addition, I am a certified mediator for community and civil mediations. I founded and volunteered with York Community Mediation Service for five years while working for the Ontario Mandatory Mediation Program, mediating pre-court Toronto Civil Court Cases. At the Regional Municipality of York, for five years I coordinated the educational forestry programs in the 5000 acres of the York Regional Forest. I designed the public interpretive program with twelve
major public events annually and reached over 8000 residents of York Region each year through our interpretive program.

I am now retired from the GTA working world and have lived in Simcoe County for 15 years. I am interested and involved in my community and have volunteered as a member on the Ramara Policing Committee, Ramara Trails Committee, Ontario Farmland Trust Board, Carden Field Naturalists Executive and Friends of Strawberry Island. For six years I was a Couchiching
Conservancy Director and was sad when my term ended. The Couchiching Conservancy is the best non-profit I have worked with. It has been an extremely personally rewarding time for me and I am very glad to continue my work with CC through the Advisory Council.

In summary, I have a solid background in biology, land use planning, Official Plan review, environmental assessments, and conflict resolution. I have worked with individuals and non-profit organizations in community and civil mediations and on natural heritage restoration and stewardship initiatives. I am trained and experienced in conflict resolution techniques and have carried out indepth
biological research. I use an analytical and common sense approach to problem solving and I am naturally and always inclined to collaborate.