Today more than ever, people are aware of the importance of protecting the natural world and our access to it. We make the Bruce Trail available for everyone to explore. We make it safe. We make it free. By securing a conservation corridor along the Niagara Escarpment that contains the Trail, we can help preserve precious ecosystems for ourselves, and for the future.

As one of Ontario’s largest land trusts, we understand the path forward depends on healthy, protected land. We are grounded in the evidence that land, in a natural state or brought back to ecological health, is a critical step to building nature based solutions to address the climate crisis. 

We are working to secure the missing lands for our conservation corridor and then caring for the health of the land over the long-term. Habitat loss, developmental pressure, population growth, and climbing land prices add urgency to our important mission.

Our conservation process follows four main steps:

Secure: We purchase land or receive donations of land to add to our conservation corridor

Understand: We perform extensive surveys on each protected area to assess the ecosystems and species that live on the land, their health, and any threats to their welfare

Plan: We create a stewardship plan for each property that is based on science and guides our actions on the land

Steward: We implement the recommendations of each stewardship plan, which includes regular monitoring of the property by volunteer land stewards, ensuring the Bruce Trail is routed to lay lightly on the land, and restoring habitat, where needed.

Securing the Bruce Trail Conservation Corridor

The Bruce Trail is a remarkable footpath along the unique and precious Niagara Escarpment. It is explored by millions of visitors every year who seek a connection with nature in southern Ontario.

Many people don’t realize that the Bruce Trail is not permanently secure and that the Bruce Trail conservation corridor – the Niagara Escarpment – is still vulnerable to development. The current patchwork of protected lands along the Niagara Escarpment, like conservation areas, parks, and Bruce Trail Conservancy nature reserves is conserving vital habitat for many species. However, between those ‘islands of conservation’ are private lands that are at risk from development and other threats.

We are working to secure the missing lands and a home for the Bruce Trail through the conservation of land, and the creation of nature reserves and other protected natural areas. We envision a healthy, connected corridor that will allow wildlife movement across the landscape, connect isolated populations of different species, and help ecosystems and species adapt to climate change.

The Bruce Trail Conservancy protects the Niagara Escarpment by purchasing land with funds raised, and by accepting donations of land. Each year, with the support of donors, the Bruce Trail Conservancy comes closer to its vision of the entire Bruce Trail secured within a permanently protected natural corridor. 

When prioritizing land for securement, we consider a variety of factors, including the importance of the land for the continuity and safety of the Bruce Trail, the ecological values of the land, the variety of species – especially species at risk – that could be protected by securing the land, and our ability to secure the land cost-effectively. 

Once land is secured, we ensure that the Bruce Trail is located along the best route for both trail users and the sensitive wildlife that live in the area.

The Bruce Trail’s Optimum Route

In the backyard of 8 million Ontarians there is a national treasure named the Bruce Trail. The Trail itself is Canada’s oldest and longest marked footpath. This remarkable path connects people and communities, highlights natural and cultural heritage, and improves quality of life.

Along the Bruce Trail Conservancy’s conservation corridor lies the “Optimum Route” (OR) of the Bruce Trail. The OR for the Bruce Trail is the most desirable location for the footpath based on terrain, viewpoints, and other aesthetic, ecological and logistical qualities. An OR for the Bruce Trail has been defined along the entire length of the Niagara Escarpment from Niagara to Tobermory. Land along the OR is referred to as the conservation corridor.

The criteria for the OR is based on the Bruce Trail Comprehensive Plan (1991). The main criteria is that the OR:

  • Follow the Niagara Escarpment (on the brow or below) as much as possible
  • Be within the Niagara Escarpment Plan (NEP) area
  • Ideally lie within the most ecologically sensitive land designations of the Plan area (Escarpment Natural and Escarpment Protection).

The OR was first developed and planned in the mid-1980s by BTC staff working out of the Niagara Escarpment Commission offices. Since the mid-1990s, the OR and land acquisition program has been administered by the Bruce Trail Conservancy.

Periodic confirmation and adjustments to the location of the OR are required due to various factors, including changing landowner relations, development, alteration of lot lines, etc. The process for changing the OR is formal, and requires approvals from the local Bruce Trail Club as well as the Bruce Trail Conservancy. The NEC and other stakeholders are kept up to date on the location of the OR, as it is one of the factors they consider in their permit application review and in Niagara Escarpment Parks and Open Spaces System (NEPOSS) park management plans.

As lands are acquired along the OR, the Bruce Trail is removed from roads or less desirable locations and placed within the conservation corridor.  

The end result of the land acquisition program will be a continuous, healthy ecological corridor for wildlife that can be enjoyed in a sustainable way by the public via the Bruce Trail.

Handshake Agreements

Since the founding of the Bruce Trail in 1962, “handshake agreements” have made the Trail’s existence possible, through the generosity of private landowners. Today, hundreds of these agreements remain in place, some for over five decades.

If you own land along the Bruce Trail and simply want to allow the Trail to pass over your land, a handshake with your local volunteer representative of the Bruce Trail Conservancy will serve to accomplish this. 

While this generous gift of permission is appreciated and recognized by the Bruce Trail Conservancy, it does not complete the permanent conservation corridor we seek as part of our mission. Please learn about other, Options for Protecting Your Land along the Bruce Trail.

Options for Protecting Your Land

Deciding how to protect the natural or cultural features of your land is unique and personal.  You may wish to protect the heritage values of your land for future generations. You may see conservation as a way to resolve property or potential income tax challenges. Or you may view it as an estate planning option.

Trained and experienced Bruce Trail Conservancy staff are ready to discuss the options available to you, and will assist you every step of the way to ensure your commitment to conservation creates a lasting natural legacy.

Our Conservation Process

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