After over a decade of negotiations, and collecting donations, the Nature Conservancy of Canada announced Wednesday that it has acquired 21 kilometres of pristine Lake Superior shoreline, just south of Thunder Bay, Ont., at a price tag of $8.5-million.
"It's a chance to protect the best of the best. We're not having to rehabilitate. We can just get a piece of land and it's an intact, functioning ecosystem that is going to be there, hopefully forever," said Gary Davies, the Northwest Program director for the N.C.C.
The 1,000 hectares of undisturbed boreal forest is home to bald eagles, nesting peregrines falcons, and rare Arctic and alpine plants. It also includes cliffs, cobble beaches and stretches of open bedrock.
Big Trout Bay was the last undeveloped, privately-owned bay on Lake Superior, between Duluth, Minn., and Thunder Bay, and the American owner had planned to convert the property into 300 cottage lots.
Instead, it will become part of a chain of protected areas along Lake Superior's north shore stretching from Quetico Provincial Park and the Boundary Waters to Pukaskwa National Park.
"It is a small piece in a much bigger puzzle and that's part of what makes it so incredible," said James Duncan, N.C.C's regional vice president for Ontario.
"We have a global responsibility to protect the Great Lakes and I don't think there's any better example of private action to do that than projects like Big Trout Bay," he said adding that although the new acquisition lies entirely in Canada, donations from individuals and groups on both sides of the border made the purchase possible.
The Canadian government, through the Natural Areas Conservation Program, also chipped in $3.3-million to help buy the property, "and without those sorts of supporters this would have just been a really nice idea," said Duncan.
Cross-border cooperation like this is encouraging, said Thunder Bay - Rainy River MP Don Rusnak, especially as the new American administration rolls back environmental and climate change funding and regulations.
"I don't think anyone wants to destroy our environment. We have to have economic development, that's just the nature of the game, but we also have to do it responsibly, so I think there's a very significant movement in the United States that wants to protect the environment and that's proved by this announcement," he said.
Big Trout Bay, unlike some other Nature Conservancy purchases in the Lake Superior area is accessible by road.
Members of the group in Thunder Bay believe its unspoiled beauty will attract hikers, sea kayakers and other outdoor enthusiasts and could provide an economic boost to the area through ecotourism.