The Nature Conservancy of Canada (NCC), Canada’s largest private land conservation organization, has been conserving important natural spaces since 1962. NCC’s conservation work is focused in Natural Areas and is guided by what are known as Natural Area Conservation Plans (NACP). The Rainy River to Lake of the Woods NACP was recently updated and will guide NCC’s work for the next 10 years. Since the late 1990s, NCC has been acquiring land on and around Rainy Lake and Lake of the Woods, from the Oak Grove property near the mouth of the Rainy River to the Hay Island property near the north end of Lake of the Woods.
The Rainy Lake to Lake of the Woods Natural Area covers more than 4.9 million acres or nearly 2 million hectares. It is high in biodiversity values, especially for a boreal ecosystem which tends to have low species diversity compared to the rest of Ontario. The Natural Area extends from east of Rainy Lake, includes the entire watershed of Lake of the Woods and west to the Whitemouth River in Manitoba. Over 500 species of vascular plants have been recorded in the Natural Area, as well as many species of dragonflies, beetles, birds and butterflies. Of these species, many disjunct plants occur (e.g. prairie species well outside their western range) or plants with more southerly character that are at the northern limits of their range.
Extensive peatlands occur across the flat, southwestern portion of the Natural Area, as well as along gentle slopes on the edge of the moraine that dominates the western edge of the Natural Area and the Precambrian Shield Bedrock that dominates the northeastern edge. Bog and fen peatlands support a unique suite of species specialized to the conditions present in organic wetlands. This includes numerous carnivorous species and many of Manitoba’s rare orchid species. Peatlands store more carbon than any terrestrial ecosystem on earth and their conservation will play an important role in mitigating the effects of climate change.
More information about NCC’s work on Rainy Lake and Lake of the Woods and beyond can be found at: www.natureconservancy.ca.