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History and Milestones

Malcolm Bluff Shores Nature Reserve © Noah Cole

Since 1931, Ontario Nature has always been there for nature when it needs us most. Our vision is an Ontario where nature inspires and sustains us for generations to come. We are the voice for the protection of wild species and wild spaces in the Ontario.

Our success today is due to the hard work of the men and women who realized the need for an organized conservation group in Ontario. The idea began to take shape thanks to the dedication of A.F. Coventry, Henry Carl Nunn, J.R. Dymond and T.F. McIlwraith. On February 17, 1931, Dymond proposed founding the group (then called the Federation of Ontario Naturalists) to the Brodie Club – at the time the leading naturalist organization in North America.

The Federation of Ontario Naturalists was officially created on May 15, 1931 with a total of 7 affiliated clubs and 28 individual members. We have come a long way since then and are proud of how our legacy has shaped conservation in the province.


  • We launched our new Ontario Reptile and Amphibian Atlas app and received 7,000 submissions.
  • We worked with conservation partners and supporters to successfully ban the hunting of snapping turtles in Ontario.
  • We worked with Indigenous partners to bring together members from 14 Indigenous communities and 19 environmental organizations to advance Indigenous protected areas and reconciliation.
  • With the help of our Youth Council, five municipalities and schools committed to protect pollinators and habitat under the Bee City initiative.
  • We successfully advocated for a strong wetland Conservation Strategy in Ontario.
  • We filed a lawsuit last year to protect pollinators from two widely-used neonicotinoid pesticides.


  • We protected a piece of the Sydenham—one of Canada’s most biodiverse waterways— by creating the Sydenham River Nature Reserve.
  • Our Youth Council held 9 planting events, planting close to 2,000 pollinator-friendly plants with the help of over 200 volunteers.
  • We saw the Province commit to growing the Greenbelt into 21 Urban River Valleys and seven coastal wetlands.
  • We led over 60 outreach and education events in northern and southern Ontario, focused on reptile and amphibian conservation.
  • We reached over 360,000 records of reptiles and amphibians in the atlas database and created new dynamic maps to track sightings in real time.
  • We played a key role in Forest Stewardship Council processes, including audits of local forests and the development of the new national standard.


  • Ontario Nature and its Youth Council play a lead role in convincing the provincial government to restrict the use of neonicotinoids, a group of pesticides known to be harmful to pollinators.
  • As part of a broad collaborative effort, Ontario Nature helps to secure the passing of the Protection of Public Participation Act, 2015, aimed at stopping strategic lawsuits against public participation (SLAPPs).
    Ontario Nature’s Youth Council releases two videos highlighting pollinator conservation.
  • In partnership with ALUS-Canada and community groups, Ontario Nature engages over 40 farm families in new wildlife habitat creation projects in Elgin, Grey-Bruce, and Stormont, Dundas and Glengarry counties.
    The total number of records for the Ontario Reptile and Amphibian Atlas surpasses 334,000.
  • Ontario Nature publishes the Species at Risk in Northern Ontario Guide, the Northern Forest Foraging Guide and Key Issues in Biodiversity Offset Law and Policy: A Comparison of Six Jurisdictions.


  • Ontario Nature ensures that the revised Provincial Policy Statement2014 includes a requirement to identify natural heritage systems across southern and eastern Ontario.
  • As part of the Cornerstone Standards Council, a voluntary certification system, Ontario Nature works with industry leaders, environmental organizations and community stakeholders to approve the Responsible Aggregate Standard, setting the bar for sound environmental and social practices.
  • Ontario Nature’s Youth Council launches its pollinator campaign and delivers over 1,200 signed postcards to Queen’s Park.
  • Ontario Nature adds 40 hectares to its Lost Bay Nature Reserve, a biodiversity hotspot of mature forests and provincially significant wetlands on the Frontenac Arch.
  • The Nature Network exceeds 150 member groups.
  • Ontario Nature releases the short film Caribou Forever, documenting the need to protect the St. Raphael forest in northern Ontario.
  • In collaboration with partner organizations in Thunder Bay, Ontario Nature launches a short film Energy East pipeline: Our risk, their reward.
    Ontario Nature publishes Beyond the Fields: The Value of Forest and Freshwater Foods in Northern Ontario and Best Practices Guide to Natural Heritage Systems Planning.


  • Ontario Nature’s Boreal office team successfully secures a place for forest and freshwater food in Ontario’s Local Food Act, recognizing the value of ‘wild’ foods such as berries, fiddleheads and venison.
  • Together with Wildlands League and Ecojustice, Ontario Nature launches a lawsuit against the provincial government in opposition to industry exemptions under the Endangered Species Act.


  • Ontario Nature secures two new properties that together protect almost 80 additional hectares forever: Sauble Dunes Nature Reserve at the base of the Bruce Peninsula, and Reilly Bird Nature Reserve in the upper Ottawa Valley. These acquisitions bring the total number of Ontario Nature Nature Reserves to 24.
  • Ontario Nature launches the Ontario Reptile and Amphibian Atlas smart phone app that allows people to easily identify reptiles and amphibians in the field and submit their sightings.
  • Ontario Nature leads successful collaborative effort to persuade the government to remove proposed changes to the Endangered Species Act that would have dramatically weakened the law.
    Ontario Nature publishes Protecting Greenbelt Wetlands: How Effective is Policy? with Ducks Unlimited Canada, Ecojustice and Earthroots.
  • Ontario Nature publishes The Road To Extinction: A call to end the snapping turtle hunt with the David Suzuki Foundation and the Kawartha Turtle Trauma Centre.


  • Ontario Nature successfully negotiates the deferral of 18,500 hectares of critical caribou habitat in northwestern Ontario.
  • Records for the Ontario Reptile and Amphibian Atlas surpass 150,000.
  • Ontario Nature’s Youth Council works with community groups to organize the first annual Our Special Spaces series of conservation events in celebration of Earth Day.
  • Ontario Nature publishes Biodiversity in Ontario’s Greenbelt with the David Suzuki Foundation.


  • Ontario Nature hosts its first annual Youth Summit for Biodiversity and establishes the Ontario Nature Youth Council, with members from communities across Ontario.
  • In partnership with the Bruce Trail Conservancy, Ontario Nature protects Malcolm Bluff Shores – a 423 hectare property on the Niagara Escarpment.
  • Ontario Nature plays a lead role in the collaborative effort to protect Ontario’s boreal forest, resulting in the passing of the Far North Act, 2010.
  • Ontario Nature collects more than 5,500 signatures on a Biodiversity Charter for Ontario in the International Year of Biodiversity and submits it to the provincial government.
  • Working with Ecojustice, Ontario Nature launches a court case against a property manager whose office building complex killed or injured thousands of birds through collisions with windows.


  • Ontario Nature launches the Ontario Reptile and Amphibian Atlas, to gather information and inform conservation efforts for some of the province’s most endangered animals.
  • Ontario Nature publishes The Green Way Forward: A Review of Natural Heritage Policies for Southern Ontario.
  • Ontario Nature works closely with the provincial government to draft effective policies and regulations to support implementation of the Endangered Species Act, 2007.


  • Working in partnership with the Boreal Songbird Initiative and other conservation groups, Ontario Nature helps collect 60,000 signatures petitioning the federal government to protect the boreal forest, described as a songbird nursery.
  • As part of Campaign Lake Simcoe, Ontario Nature helps to secure passage of the Lake Simcoe Protection Act, 2008 to curb urban development and improve the water quality of the lake.
  • Ontario Nature plays lead role in the formation of the ALUS Alliance, to create broad support for the Alternative Land Use Services approach to incentivizing habitat creation on farm land.


  • As part of the Save Ontario Species Coalition, Ontario Nature plays a lead role in securing the new Endangered Species Act, 2007.
  • With several partner organizations, Ontario Nature publishes the second Atlas of the Breeding Birds of Ontario.
  • Ontario Nature publishes a series of brochures on the Greenbelt and Your Health in partnership with the Ontario College of Family Physicians.


  • Ontario Nature proudly celebrates its 75th anniversary.
  • Ontario Nature plays a lead role in securing the new Provincial Parks and Conservation Reserves Act, 2006.
  • Ontario Nature collects 1,500 letters asking the Province for a new Endangered Species Act.
  • Ontario Nature submits 1,200 postcards to the provincial government asking for boreal forest protection.


  • Members submit more than 2,300 postcards to the Premier, urging full protection for Ontario’s provincial parks, conservation reserves and aquatic areas under the anticipated provincial parks legislation.
  • Ontario Nature publishes Suggested Conservation Guidelines for the Identification of Significant Woodlands.
  • Ontario Nature plays a lead role in securing the new the Greenbelt Act and Plan, which aim to conserve green space and contain urban sprawl in the Greater Golden Horseshoe.
  • Ontario Nature’s Nature Network increases to 140 member groups.


  • FON renames itself Ontario Nature to refresh its image.
  • Seasons magazine becomes ON Nature.
  • Ontario Nature launches the Southern Ontario Greenway Strategy.
  • Ontario Nature publishes Birds on the Farm to promote bird-friendly farming practices.


  • Julyan Mulock and her late husband, Cawthra Falconbridge Mulock, donate 107 hectares of mature woodlands in King Township to FON.
  • FON joins with the Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society, World Wildlife Fund-Canada and Earthroots in a campaign to save the Algonquin wolves.
  • Seasons wins a Gold Award and an Honourable Mention at the National Magazine Awards,


  • FON launches its Smart Growth campaign and publishes A Smart Future for Ontario: How to Protect Nature and Curb Urban Sprawl in Your Community.
  • FON and allies ensure that mining activities are excluded from hundreds of new protected areas in Ontario.
  • Working for Wilderness is relaunched as the Ontario Nature’s Volunteer for Nature program.


  • FON launches the second Ontario Breeding Bird Atlas project, for which approximately 2,000 volunteers collect scientific data.
  • FON’s work results in the passage of the Oak Ridges Moraine Conservation Act, 2001, protecting almost 195,000 hectares of land on the moraine from urban development.
  • FON represents more than 20,000 members and supporters and over 110 community-based naturalist clubs and environmental groups.
  • Seasons wins its first National Magazine Award (Gold).


  • FON’s nature reserve system doubles in size in one year with the expansion of Altberg Nature Reserve near Peterborough and the acquisition of Baptist Harbour on the Bruce Peninsula.
  • FON expands its campaign to protect the Oak Ridges Moraine and submits a joint application with other groups for a review of the laws and policies applicable to the development of the moraine.
  • More than 2,500 people respond to the Oak Ridges Moraine campaign by joining FON, making a donation or becoming an Advocate for Nature.
  • The Nature Network increases to 105 member groups.


  • The Partnership for Public Lands campaign protects 2.4 million hectares in 378 new parks and conservation reserves in northern and central Ontario.
    FON launches a campaign to protect and restore southern Ontario’s woodlands.
  • The Ontario Forest Accord balances environmental conservation interests with the long-term well-being of northern communities and the forestry industry.
  • FON participates in the largest conservation purchase in Ontario’s history with acquisition of 16,000 hectares (6,000 acres) of Manitoulin Island’s alvar coast.
  • As part of this purchase, Quarry Bay becomes FON’s 18th nature reserve.
  • FON plays a lead role in securing the cancellation of Ontario’s spring bear hunt.


  • Howard Krug bequeaths Kinghurst Forest, southwest of Owen Sound, to FON. At 240 hectares, Kinghurst is the best remaining fragment of old-growth upland forest in southern Ontario – protected forever as the 17th FON Nature Reserve.
  • FON wins an award for Outstanding Leadership in Environmental Education from the Ontario Society for Environmental Education.
  • More than 1,500 people arrive at Queen’s Park to participate in the Portage for Wilderness, a call to encourage the government to create new parks and protected areas in northern Ontario.


  • FON, Wildlands League and World Wildlife Fund-Canada join to form the Partnership for Public Lands to campaign for the completion of the provincial parks system.
  • FON sponsors the formation of the Ontario Land Trust alliance (OLTA).


  • FON purchases Lyal Island, off the Lake Huron coast of the Bruce Peninsula, its 16th nature reserve.
  • FON launches Working for Wilderness– a conservation volunteer program to protect nature in Ontario.
  • FON’s Nature Network expands to 83 member groups.
  • FON publishes The Jumbo Book of Nature Science and A Citizen’s Guide to Protecting Wetlands and Woodlands.


  • Seasons magazine receives the Editors’ Choice Award for Best Magazine of the Year with circulation under 50,000.
  • FON joins World Wildlife Fund-Canada to call for a moratorium on the spring bear hunt in an effort to protect the black bear population.


  • FON and its allies successfully campaign to expand Wabakimi Provincial Park (northwest of Lake Nipigon) from 155,000 to 892,000 hectares in order to encompass vital woodland caribou habitat.


  • FON helps to secure passage of Ontario’s Environmental Bill of Rights, 1993.
  • FON receives the Canadian Environmental Achievement Award for excellence in a non-profit organization.
  • FON publishes Creative Conservation: A Handbook for Ontario Land Trusts and Putting Nature First: Conservation Principles to Guide in the Settlement of Aboriginal Land Claims.


  • Ontario’s Wetlands Policy is approved by the government after two decades of FON campaigning.


  • FON serves on an advisory committee for Ontario’s Environmental Bill of Rights.
  • More than 2,000 members participate in FON’s natural history trips.
  • FON joins the Coalition on the Niagara Escarpment in a campaign to eliminate aggregate mining from the escarpment.


  • FON is instrumental in putting pressure on the government to cancel the duck hunt in Point Pelee National Park.


  • FON’s joint proposal results in the passage of “Untaxing Nature,” a policy that gives landowners a fairer tax structure if they opt to preserve private lands, and which will encourage agencies and non-governmental organizations to acquire land.
  • FON adopts the loon as its logo symbolizing the state of the environment.
  • FON’s Rare Breeding Bird program commences.
  • FON’s Why Wetlands? video wins best documentary award at Canadian Cable Television Programming Awards.


  • FON publishes the first Atlas of the Breeding Birds of Ontario, thanks to the work of more than 1,600 volunteers who contributed 180,000 hours of their time over a five-year period.
  • FON’s natural heritage protection campaign results in the establishment of Bruce Peninsula National Park and Fathom Five National Marine Park.


  • FON’s parks campaign leads to the creation of 155 new parks, including five new wilderness parks, encompassing more than two million hectares.


  • FON acquires, relocates, and restores Goodwin House – thought to be the oldest freestanding house in North York – next to Locke House as part of its office space.
  • FON develops wetlands evaluation model.


  • Fieldwork on The Atlas of Breeding Birds of Ontario begins.
  • The Nature Network grows to 52 member groups.
  • FON offers more than 100 trips, in which over 1,200 people participate.
  • Three paid staff now work at FON.


  • FON renames its magazine Seasons.


  • FON launches campaign to protect wetlands.
  • Locke House becomes the FON’s new headquarters.
  • FON’s Action Seminar on Acid Precipitation leads to the establishment of the Canadian Coalition on Acid Rain.


  • FON founds the Coalition on the Niagara Escarpment (CONE).


  • FON forms the Foundation for Aggregate Studies.


  • FON grows to 42 member groups.


  • FON’s support is vital in the passing of the Environmental Assessment Act.


  • FON’s Young Naturalist magazine becomes Owl magazine.
  • FON’s Wilderness in Ontario report leads to creation of provincial wilderness parks policy.


  • FON’s Mail a Can to John campaign inspires Ontarians to mail in thousands of cans and bottles to Premier John Robarts as a call for legislation on disposable containers.


  • An FON campaign results in Ontario’s first Endangered Species Act.
    FON reaches 15,000 members – a 33 percent increase in one year.


  • FON grows to 10,000 members


  • The Young Naturalist’s circulation totals nearly 26,000, and the magazine’s three editorial board members are all volunteers.
  • FON’s paid staff totals two – Jim Woodford and Gerald McKeating.


  • The Ontario Naturalist publishes an editorial titled “Polar Bear National Park,” which eventually leads to the creation of the provincial park.


  • FON’s Ban the Wolf Bounty campaign calls for the full protection for wolves inside provincial parks.


  • FON launches the Battle of the Bulldozer campaign and raises $20,000 to purchase one of its first nature reserves, Dorcas Bay, on the Bruce Peninsula.
  • FON’s volunteer-run Nature Reserves Committee leads to the creation of the Nature Conservancy of Canada.
  • FON’s offices at Edwards Gardens destroyed by fire; irreplaceable records are lost.


  • *An FON committee leads to the creation of the Bruce Trail Association.
  • FON has 3,500 members.


  • FON launches The Young Naturalist magazine.
  • Membership hits 3,000.


  • The Bulletin (successor to Circular) advocates for the protection of wetlands.


  • FON champions the protection of natural heritage on Lake Erie’s shore leading to Long Point, Turkey Point, and Hawk Cliff provincial parks.
  • FON’s Nature Network grows to 32 affiliated clubs and 1,650 members.


  • Along with the Ontario Federation of Anglers and Hunters and the Conservation Council of Ontario, FON begins action to protect all birds of prey in the province.


  • The Ontario Parks Act is passed, largely due to the efforts of FON.


  • FON’s first executive director, Dr. Bill Gunn, a biologist and sound recordist, is hired.


  • At the “Guelph Conference,” FON leaders, along with the Ontario Conservation and Reforestation Association, launch the Conservation Authority system in Ontario.


  • FON distributes its first publication to Ontario schools urging the protection of wildflowers.
  • FON launches its first nature camp at Camp Franklin on Franklin Island in Georgian Bay.


  • FON publishes a study of the Oak Ridges Moraine, calling for its reforestation.


  • *FON persuades the Ontario Government to restore protection for eagles and ospreys.
  • FON begins to document the decline in wetlands in southern Ontario.
  • FON is incorporated on July 12.


  • FON proposes the establishment of a complete system of parks and nature reserves in Ontario.


  • Sanctuaries and the Preservation of Wildlife in Ontario, an FON report, leads to the designation of wilderness areas in Algonquin Park and a nature reserve at Point Pelee National Park.


  • At the first FON field day in Hamilton, participants identify 67 bird species.
    Clark and Nora Locke build Locke House, FON’s future home, on old Leslie Street in Toronto.


  • Circular, FON’s newsletter, published to educate members and provide information about FON projects.


  • Through the hard work and dedication of early naturalists – especially A.F. Coventry, Henry Carl Nunn, J.R. Dymond, and T.F. McIlwraith – seven clubs and 28 members create the Federation of Ontario Naturalists (FON).
  • FON’s first president, W.E. Saunders is selected.
  • A special committee urges that wildlife – game or otherwise – be considered the property of all citizens and that wildlife reserves be established.

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