Thu. Feb 29th, 2024
What is a conservation reserve?

Protection has always been and continues to be an integral piece in maintaining our unique natural spaces and biodiversity throughout the province.

Whether protected for scientific or cultural reasons, the designation of Ontario’s 295 conservation reserves plays an important role in preserving these lands.

So what are conservation reserves?

Conservation reserves are a type of protected area intended to protect important natural and cultural features.

Conservation reserves are an important part of Ontario’s protected area system, covering 1.4% of the province. That’s 1,515,687 hectares of land!

cedar swamp

They protect sensitive and important places and allow visitors to participate in environmentally responsible recreational activities, such as hiking, canoeing, hunting, fishing and more. They allow ecologically sustainable research and land uses to be carried out.

Like provincial parks, conservation reserves are selected and designed based on their ecological, geological and cultural heritage characteristics, and are selected using very specific criteria.

They do not have a rating system like provincial parks and generally do not have operational facilities, programs or closing dates.

Are conservation reserves and conservation areas the same thing?

Not quite!

Lingham Lake Conservation ReserveLingham Lake Conservation Reserve

Both conservation reserves and conservation areas focus on the protection of natural environments, however conservation areas They are not managed by the Ministry of Environment, Conservation and Parks.

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Conservation areas are managed by Conservation Authorities, located throughout the province.

Can I visit a conservation reserve?

While conservation reserves typically receive a lower level of use compared to provincial parks, you can still visit them.

But keep in mind the main reason we have conservation reserves: protection.


Ontario’s conservation reserves protect many rare and at-risk species and ecosystems.

Treat these areas with special care, making sure not to trample sensitive areas or leave trash behind.

These are just a few of the province’s unique conservation reserves:

Parisian Island, Lake Superior

Near the border with the United States, Ile Parisienne was considered a conservation reserve to protect a rare type of cliff that exists on the western side of the island.

Photo: Wikipedia Commons

On the east side of the island, you’ll find windswept dunes and a seemingly endless white sand beach.

Fun fact: Ile Parisienne was within sight of the SS Edmund Fitzgerald as it sank to the bottom of Lake Superior. Remembered in Gordon Lightfoot’s famous song, “The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald,” he sang: “All the searchers say they would have reached Whitefish Bay if they had left fifteen more miles behind it.”

Sailors must pass Ile Parisienne before reaching Whitefish Bay. Learn more about the infamous shipwreck.

Wainfleet Marsh

This conservation reserve is part of a much larger protected area owned and managed by the Niagara Peninsula Conservation Authority and the Nature Conservancy of Canada.

Wainfleet Bog is home to many recreational activities including seasonal deer hunting, upland hunting and waterfowl.

Naturalists and other visitors enter the swamp during a wide variety of seasons to observe, record and enjoy wildlife, including one of the southernmost populations of eastern Massassauga rattlesnakes.

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Mac Bay, Manitoulin Island

This conservation reserve features crystal blue waters and a gentle limestone coastline.

Extremophilous plants that thrive in extreme environments make their home in the alvar habitat, just steps from the water.

Mac’s Bay is located right next to Misery Bay Provincial Park.

Let’s all work together to respect our protected areas!