Skip to main content

History and Milestones

Since 1931, Ontario Nature has always been there for nature whenever and wherever it needs us most.

Bald Eagle © Bill McDonald


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.

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 Ontario.

Staff hike © Noah Cole


  • Were part of a loose coalition that got the Government of Ontario to reverse its plan to withdraw land from the Greenbelt
  • Expanded our Lost Bay Nature Reserve
  • Welcomed 12 new groups to our provincial Nature Network, and enhanced capacity through toolkits and webinars
  • Published the Ontario Reptile and Amphibian Atlas a ten-year community science initiative
  • Worked with Conservation Authorities and other land holders to contribute to Canada’s protected areas target
  • Won an important court case about public participation related to the controversial Bradford Bypass highway
  • Published primers and other materials about wetland conservation
  • Youth Council launched an initiative to educate students about the importance of wetlands as nature-based climate solutions
Eastern spiny softshell turtle © Scott Gillingwater


Piping plover © Merri-Lee


MacSorley parcel, Sydenham River Nature Reserve © Smera Sukumar


Virtual Youth Summit for Mother Earth, Art in Nature workshop © Camryn R


  • With the support of our members and Nature Network member groups, we helped stop Schedule 10 of Bill 66, which threatened the drinking water, farmland and natural heritage of every municipality in Ontario.
  • We launched our long-term monitoring protocols for snakes.
  • We began transforming 60 acres of farmland at our Sydenham River Nature Reserve into native woodland and meadow.
  • We built a wheelchair accessible boardwalk at our Petrel Point Nature Reserve.
  • We conducted a prescribed burn at our Stone Road Alvar Nature Reserve to regenerate this haven for at-risk species.
  • We launched the Youth Circle for Mother Earth program in partnership with the Indigenous Environmental Institute at Trent University, Plenty Canada and Walpole Island Land Trust.
Accessible boardwalk, Petrel Point Nature Reserve © Gabriella Zagorski


  • We took the federal government to court over neonicotinoid pesticide linked to declining pollinator populations.
  • Our recommendations helped guide the province’s new wetland conservation strategy.
  • Starfish Canada named three members of our Youth Council top 25 under 25 environmental leaders.
  • Money Sense ranked Ontario Nature as one of the top 10 environmental charities in Canada for 2018.
  • The Ontario Reptile and Amphibian Atlas received 435,236 records from citizen scientists.
Beaver River, Uxbridge © Sean Marshall CC BY-NC 2.0

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.

© Brigitte Smith


  • 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.
Snapping turtle © Scott Gillingwater


  • 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.
Sydenham River Nature Reserve © David Coulson


Youth Council group and pollinator pledge poster, 2015 © Joyce Cheng


Laurel Creek Conservation Area © Carl Hiebert / Grand River Conservation Authority


  • Ontario Nature’s Boreal 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 that was ultimately unsuccessful.
Forest and freshwater foods


Spring peeper, Sauble Dunes Nature Reserve © Noah Cole


Boreal caribou bull © KILands.org


  • 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.
Youth Summit, 2010 © Brendan Toews


Blanding's turtle © Joe Crowley


  • 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 farmland.
Wetland at VanTil Farm © Lisa Richardson


  • 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.
Canada warbler © John Sutton CC BY-NC-ND 2.0


  • 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.


Ontario Nature members at Sherman Falls © Noah Cole


  • 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.
Algonquin wolf © Lev Frid


Toronto area housing © Yoko Chiyoko CC BY-NC-SA 2.0


  • 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).
Oak Ridges Moraine © Kim Lowes


  • 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.
Altberg Nature Reserve


  • The Partnership for Public Lands campaign secures a commitment to protect 2.4 million hectares in 378 new parks and conservation reserves in northern and central Ontario. Unfortunately, more than 20 years later some of those remain unprotected as parks in waiting.
  • 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.
Black bear and cub © Missy Mandel


  • 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.
Portage for Wilderness rally


  • 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).
Wolf Lake © James Paterson


Lyal Island Nature Reserve © Smera Sukumar



  • 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.
Wabakimi Provincial Park © Kieran McMullen


  • 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.
Ruby-throated hummingbird and cardinal flower © Steven Severinghaus CC BY-NC-SA 2.0


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


  • 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.
Malcolm Bluff Shores Nature Reserve © Noah Cole


  • FON is instrumental in putting pressure on the government to cancel the duck hunt in Point Pelee National Park.
Ring-necked duck © Tim Zurowski


  • 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.
Common loon © Peter Ferguson


  • 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.
Bruce Peninsula National Park © Vanessa Denov


  • FON’s parks campaign leads to the creation of 155 new parks, including five new wilderness parks, encompassing more than two million hectares.
Woodland Caribou Provincial Park © Permavultur CC BY-NC-SA 2.0


  • 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.
Goodwin House relocated next to Locke House © Helen Hancock


  • 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 Sturgeon River canoe trip © Larry Herr


  • 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.
Locke House


  • FON founds the Coalition on the Niagara Escarpment (CONE).
Malcolm Bluff Shores Nature Reserve, escarpment © Noah Cole


  • FON forms the Foundation for Aggregate Studies.
Vicdom aggregate stockpiles © Tim Hayward


  • FON grows to 42 member groups.
Ontario Nature members, Petrel Point © Kirsten Dahl


  • FON’s support is vital in the passing of the Environmental Assessment Act.
Sydenham River Nature Reserve © David Coulson


  • FON’s Young Naturalist magazine becomes Owl magazine.
  • FON’s Wilderness in Ontario report leads to creation of provincial wilderness parks policy.
Great-horned owl © Larry Smith CC BY 2.0


  • A FON campaign results in Ontario’s first Endangered Species Act.
  • FON reaches 15,000 members – a 33 percent increase in one year.
  • 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.
Piping plover and chick © Brendan Toews


  • FON grows to 10,000 members.
Ontario Nature members, Minesing Wetlands © Noah Cole


  • 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.
Polar bear © Alex Berger CC BY-NC 2.0


  • FON’s Ban the Wolf Bounty campaign calls for the full protection for wolves inside provincial parks.
Algonquin wolf © Rosemary Harris


  • 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.
Dorcas copper, Lyal Island Nature Reserve © Mike Badyk


  • A FON committee leads to the creation of the Bruce Trail Association.
  • FON has 3,500 members.
Old Baldy trail © Roland Tanglao


  • FON launches The Young Naturalist magazine.
  • Membership hits 3,000.
© Hamilton Naturalists' Club


  • The Bulletin (successor to Circular) advocates for the protection of wetlands.
Minesing Wetlands © Noah Cole


  • 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.
Jacksons Point © Mark CC BY-NC 2.0


  • 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.
Juvenile Cooper's hawk © Susan Young


  • The Ontario Parks Act is passed, largely due to the efforts of FON.
Algonquin Provincial Park © Elena Elisseeva


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


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


  • 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.
Blue flag iris, Harold Mitchell Nature Reserve © Stephanie Muckle


  • FON publishes a study of the Oak Ridges Moraine, calling for its reforestation.
White oak © Victor Crich


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


  • FON proposes the establishment of a complete system of parks and nature reserves in Ontario.
Presquile Provincial Park © John Hassell


  • 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.
Point Pelee National Park © jbcurio CC BY 2.0


  • At the first 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.
Red-headed woodpecker © Victor Crich


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


  • 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). The founding clubs were:
  1. Brodie Club (Toronto)
  2. Biological Club (Toronto)
  3. McIlwraith Ornithological Club,  now called Nature London
  4. Kent Nature Club (Chatham)
  5. Hamilton Bird Protection Society, now called Hamilton Naturalists’ Club
  6. Queen’s Natural History Society (Kingston)
  7. Toronto Field Naturalists Club
  • 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.