The Highlands Corridor covers over 100,000 hectares of unceded public and private land, rich with wetlands, forests, wildlife communities, species at risk, and deep carbon deposits. It extends across southern Haliburton and northern Peterborough counties, within the territory of the Williams Treaties First Nations.
Connecting three provincial parks, the corridor offers a nature-based solution to building climate change resilience, protecting lands and waters, and maintaining biodiversity. Over 60% of the Highlands Corridor is unceded crown land, and the protection of the crown land as a Conservation Reserve provides an opportunity to meet federal, provincial and municipal government commitments to building resilience to climate change and expanding protected areas. These commitments include the Ontario Provincial Government's plan to expand protected areas and natural areas to mitigate impacts of flooding, and the objectives set out in the County of Haliburton’s Community Climate Action Plan.
Call to Action
There is an urgent need to adopt nature-based solutions for climate change resilience in Ontario and around the world. It is also imperative that we increase the number of protected spaces to enhance connectivity across the landscape and prevent further biodiversity loss. With less than 11% of its land base currently protected from industrial development, Ontario has a long way to go to contribute to Canada meeting its target of protecting 25% of lands and waters by 2025. In Central Ontario, there are still opportunities to protect extensive, relatively intact, ecologically valuable habitats that will help to accomplish these conservation goals. However, many key habitats in the region remain undocumented and unevaluated, and therefore at risk of being degraded or lost entirely, with negative consequences for biodiversity and climate resilience.
The Province of Ontario needs to act to prevent the ongoing loss and degradation of the ecosystems that function as nature-based solutions to both the climate and biodiversity crises. The Highlands Corridor represents a valuable opportunity for Ontario to expand its network of protected spaces, build climate resilience, and support biodiversity in Central Ontario.
The following are the key conservation values, based on desktop analyses and field evaluations:
- Metamorphic rock barrens have limited occurrence in southern Ontario, but cover 1.2% of the Highlands Corridor.
- Total wetland coverage in the Highlands Corridor is approximately 17.9%, indicating high regional representation. This includes twelve Provincially Significant Wetland (PSW) complexes totaling 4,892 ha, approximately 916 ha of an additional candidate PSW, and 13,420 ha of unevaluated wetlands.
- About 23% of the wetlands in the Highlands corridor are fens, bogs or coniferous swamps with deep organic deposits, providing highly valuable functions for climate resilience, including carbon storage and flood prevention.
- 75% of the forests of the Highlands Corridor are mature and 2% qualify as old growth forests. The largest old growth forest identified is the 210 ha Catchacoma Old-growth Forest, notable for Eastern Hemlock.
- The Highlands Corridor supports 39 federal and/or provincial species at risk, and an additional 26 provincially significant species and 43 regionally rare species.
- A circuit theory analysis, conducted to show areas of concentrated wildlife movement, found high priority areas for conservation that enhance connectivity and allow wildlife movement among the three existing provincial parks.
- One candidate provincially significant Earth Science Area of Natural and Scientific Interest (ANSI) (Lochlin Esker) and two candidate regionally significant Life Science ANSIs (Lochlin Bog and Silent Lake – Lowrie Lakes) are within or adjacent to the Highlands Corridor.
Click here to watch our 2022 video on the Highlands Corridor.
Click here to listen to an interview on Planet Haliburton – Canoe FM about the Highlands Corridor Project.
Click here to read a blog post on the Ontario Nature website that describes the Highlands Corridor.
Click here to download a PDF version of the Executive Summary of the report Protecting the Highlands Corridor. Haliburton Highlands Land Trust, Ontario Nature and Glenside Ecological Services collaborated on the production of the report.