Conservancy adds key shoreline to wildlife corridor

A national non-profit conservancy has bought some 48 hectares of land north of Gananoque, Ont., on the shore of Whitefish Lake, part of a larger plan to connect pieces of a key wildlife corridor in the region.

48-ha parcel north of Gananoque, Ont., home to several unique species

Some 48 hectares of land, including part of the Whitefish Lake shoreline, have been purchased with the help of the federal government. (Nature Conservancy of Canada)

A national non-profit conservancy has bought some 48 hectares of land north of Gananoque, Ont., on the shore of Whitefish Lake, part of a larger plan to connect pieces of a key wildlife corridor in the region.

The Nature Conservancy of Canada said the purchase, which includes 2.5 kilometres of shoreline along Whitefish Lake, from south of Red Rock Island to north of McAvoy Lane, will help protect the area and its unique wildlife.

Gary Bell, the group's program director for eastern Ontario, said the Whitefish Lake parcel is part of a larger biosphere called the Frontenac Arch.

The arch is a finger of granite that stretches from the Canadian Shield to the Adirondack region and is home to many unique species of plants and animals such as the five-lined skink, the only native species of lizard in the province, as well as species that migrate from farther south.

Bell said Thursday's purchase secures a large parcel of forest and a unique shoreline, with such tree species as shagbark hickory and rock elm, more commonly found in the Appalachian Mountains.

At left: The land acquired on the shore of Whitefish Lake is about 30 kilometres north of Gananoque, Ont. At right: The acquired land is along southwest shore of Whitefish Lake, south of Red Rock Island and north of McAvoy Lane (at bottom left). (Nature Conservancy of Canada/Google Maps)

"What separates the particular parcel of land are the enormous granite ridges along the shore," Bell said. "The tops of these ridges get above the trees … and give you a view for kilometres."

The group has purchased many lands just east of Frontenac Provincial Park, most notably a 460-hectare parcel encompassing Elbow Lake in 2008.

The Whitefish Lake purchase is one of the first acquisitions near Highway 15, a signal of the group's aims to connect the land from the park to the highway with what Bell calls "islands of forest" in the hope of preserving the wildlife corridor.

A view of the granite shoreline of Whitefish Lake in the habitat known as the Frontenac Arch. (Nature Conservancy of Canada)

Bell said as the group has acquired more land, locals have become more aware of their conservation efforts and are reaching out to them.

"When you first work in an area like this, nobody knows what you are doing ... [but now] they would rather sell it to us and see it protected," Bell said.

The group first plans to take an inventory and identify species at risk before developing a management plan for the land.

Bell said as climate change threatens to alter regions to the south, the Frontenac Arch may take on added importance for those species.