Doug Varty, Advisory Council Co-Chair, Citizen Scientist, Property Monitor & Supporter, has shared his connection to the area in a new letter.
Read the letter from Doug

Thomas C. Agnew Nature Reserve. Photo by D. Hangaard.

The creation of wildlife corridors has become more urgent in the face of a rapidly changing climate. Corridors of protected wilderness matter. These are the bridges for species to move. Corridors reduce fragmentation, which has a big impact on species survival. A UN report that concludes a million species are threatened with extinction, and the fact that many Canadian provinces could become ‘climate refuges’ for animals heading north to escape rising temperatures. We are working towards creating the starting point of the wildest spaces left in Ontario.

The reality has been reflected in The Couchiching Conservancy’s approach to updating its natural heritage acquisition strategy. Working with partners over a span of two years, we have developed the document Conservation Priorities for The Couchiching Conservancy. It identifies several high-priority zones within the Conservancy’s coverage area. Through this process, it became clear the importance of the Black River Wildlands region and Carden Alvar.

Mapping was done of Species at Risk occurrences, connection to existing protected areas (with land trusts, Conservation Authorities, parks, etc), waterways, forest cover and more. Consideration was also given for highest threats, protections in place, fragmentation and more.


With increasing development pressure in our area, we have a goal to raise $1.4M for the Corridors Campaign. We are actively working with landowners As of March 2021 we still need to raise $500K – so every donation is important and moves us closer to our land conservation objectives.

Your donation to the Corridors Campaign powers the Conservancy in efforts to move forward various protection projects throughout this region. Your donation will go towards the priority project.

Donations over $1,000 annually are included in our Leader's Circle, which includes access to events, early access to popular Passport to Nature events, special recognition in our Annual Report and more.

Donate online here
Download the pledge form

Adams Nature Reserve. Photo by T. Rowland.


additional acres is the goal to be protected by 2025


of species who rely on this area as migration stops or year round habitat


species at some level of risk of disappearing forever


acres protected since the start of our new Strategic Plan in 2020

1. Identify biological hotspots using data such as Species at Risk, habitat and atlases

2. Find opportunities for protection to create connectivity between places we protect, wilderness areas protected by other organizations, Indigenous led areas and private land owners

3. Create a roadmap for land protection priorities for the next 25 years

Development Committee

Our committee helps in many ways to further the land trust movement to protect as much wilderness as possible while the opportunities are still there. We are grateful for their commitment to this work.


Doug Varty

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.

"I am very proud of our natural areas and our vast wilderness. I believe it is our responsibility as Canadians to preserve these natural areas for many reasons including – protecting biodiversity, reducing the impacts of climate change and protecting them for future generations to enjoy.

My wife and I are relative newcomers to the area. We enjoy nature and outdoor activities, and we have quickly come to realize what an amazing area this is with its lakes, rivers and many natural spaces. However, the area is under development pressure and as such it is vitally important that we work together to continue to identify and protect threatened habitat in a strategic manner. The Couchiching Conservancy is a highly regarded land trust, has a great team (staff and volunteers) and very strong community support. We enthusiastically look forward to being part of a team building upon the incredible achievements of the Conservancy to date."


James K. Stewart

James (Jason) Stewart has been extensively involved in fundraising and other volunteer work for charities since the late 1980s, and in helping conservation causes for nearly two decades. 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 the International Conservation Fund of Canada, and President of The Youssef-Warren Foundation. In business, Jason has worked in financial markets, policy and research since the early 1980s. He is the author or co-author of more than 25 articles, reports and studies. Jason is a Senior Fellow at the C.D. Howe Institute.

"Oro-Medonte and the Lake Couchiching area have been special places for our family for many decades, and I want to help sustain these amazing habitats and wildlife for future generations. The Couchiching Conservancy’s success in protecting crucial habitat and species is inspiring and compelling.

For me, the Conservancy embodies local commitment and effectiveness in preserving natural spaces and wildlife. Its work with other conservation organizations has paid huge dividends in preserving the beauty and magic of this region. Its leadership through initiatives such as citizen science and Passport to Nature make Couchiching a role model for local environmental work across Ontario. It is enjoyable to seek support from foundations to help fund the Conservancy’s work, and a pleasure to be part of the Advisory Council with its dedicated group of scientists, naturalists and fundraisers."


Doug Christie

Doug is a partner in the law firm of Russell Christie LLP. Doug has delivered a number of papers and lectures on behalf of the Canadian Bar Association and the Law Society of Upper Canada with respect to waterfront and recreational property. Doug was the President and former member of the Board of Directors of Big Brothers. He is an elder in the Orillia Presbyterian Church; volunteers with Couchiching Jubilee House and the Couchiching Conservancy. For many years Doug was involved in coaching minor hockey and soccer. Doug has been an active member of the Orillia YMCA and served on the Board of Directors for 13 years. He has chaired annual campaigns and was the Chair of the Capital Campaign for the expansion at Skid Watson YMCA. Doug and his wife Barb have lived in Orillia since 1973. They have 3 children and 5 grandchildren. Doug was awarded the Order of Orillia in 2011.

"The goal and promise of the Conservancy is to preserve and protect lands with special natural features in the Couchiching region forever. This is a challenge given creeping development, changes in government policy, land abuse and climate change. Through having participated in a number of Passport to Nature events I have become more sensitized to the fact that there is an amazing and important interaction between the environment and all living things. Humans are a part of this interaction but the land is not there simply to suit our needs."


Mark Bisset

Mark is the Executive Director at the Conservancy. He has been working to protect nature with supporters since 2009.

What he loves most about working at the Conservancy is the privilege of doing work that is aligned with his personal values.
When he's not working for the Conservancy, he likes to mess around in sailboats, canoe, camp, cycle, garden, read, ski, snowshoe, swim, weep for the Toronto Maple Leafs and occasionally build things that refuse to be level.

Tanya Clark

Tanya is the Development Coordinator at the Conservancy. She has been a staff member since 2012, and works with the Committee on various fundraising initiatives.

"Getting out and appreciating nature is a part of who I am as a person. Camping, canoeing, hiking are activities that matter to me. Soaking in the beauty of this land, these waters. Nature gives us everything, and we have a responsibility to protect it.
I love working here because of the community. I feel so proud to be doing this work with hundreds of others who are concerned about the future of our forests, wetlands and alvars. When we lose wild places, we lose a piece of ourselves.
It can feel overwhelming to feel like so much is out of your control, and how can I *by myself* make a difference? I can’t protect the places I care about on my own, but I can when I link up with non-profits doing this work."