In honour of Earth month, we are celebrating the marvels of the Earth and the flora and fauna that live here. When it comes to honouring diversity, Ontario’s Highlands is the perfect place to do so.

Spanning westward from the Ottawa River to the western border of Haliburton Highlands, Ontario’s Highlands is comprised of a mix of topographies that lend themselves perfectly to supporting a diverse range of wildlife and terrain. Here, rugged Canadian Sheild is complemented by lush forests, turbulent rivers and serene lakes, while rich and fertile soil is found in valleys between rolling hills and vibrant rural communities. 

Ontario’s Highlands’ remote spaces, biological diversity, and collection of small, vibrant communities make it a coveted travel destination for hikers, paddlers, cyclists, cottage-goers, fishers, and small-town lovers. The region attracts intrepid adventurers as well as those looking to its endless forests for a respite from the hustle and bustle of everyday life.

It is the uniqueness of this region that inspired the formation of The Land Between (TLB), a grassroots charity working to research, conserve, and protect the globally rare and nationally unique bioregion in Ontario’s Highlands. Founder and Chief Operating Officer, Leora Berman explained their organization refers to Ontario’s Highlands as ‘the land between’ due to its location at the junction between the Canadian Shield and St. Lawrence Lowlands, making it a region that harbors a combination of both worlds in terms of climate and wilderness. 

“Quite literally, this is  the last true wilderness landscape in the southern half of Ontario,” said Leora. 

TLB runs several programs to advance conservation of this landscape and its wildlife inhabitants, including the Blue Lakes Program as well as the popular Turtle Guardians project, which facilitates the rescue of turtles on roads and research and wetland monitoring, and the implementation of mitigations to reduce turtle mortality. 

Wild and Wonderful

Ontario’s Highlands’ ecologically diverse and varied terrain translates into a wide diversity in the numbers of species who find refuge here. Here too, both water and land species overlap to create a region with diverse animals. 

“Ontario’s Highlands has the highest habitat diversity in Canada, the only rock barrens in Ontario, and a wealth of wildlife diversity coexisting – from moose to deer to blackfly to mosquito (and yes, this is a good thing),” explained Leora.

Of course, it’s not just the landscape that makes this region so unique, it’s also the people who live here, and Ontario’s Highlands is peppered with small rural communities where small town fairs and farmers’ markets are still a thing to do on Saturdays in the summer. Here, creativity thrives, and the region is home to more artisans than any other place in Ontario. 

This region is also a last refuge for many disappearing wildlife and its biodiversity are already fragile and facing increasing threats. 

As a final sanctuary protecting and conserving the region’s wild places and wild species becomes vital. This is why Ontario’s Highlands has launched its Wander Sustainably approach to tourism, to do our part in ensuring the region’s biodiversity is protected now, for future generations. 

Come Wander Sustainably

Responsible tourism is an approach to tourism that focuses on supporting and growing the community and culture while protecting the environment and its ecosystems. It means encouraging prospective visitors to travel-plan from a new perspective and consciously seek out experience providers who care about how they impact their community and environment.

Key to wandering sustainably is being mindful of tourism’s impacts to ensure the attractions that support the wealth of experiences which draw millions of visitors here each year. 

This year, we invite visitors to Ontario’s Highlands to look for sustainable tips on our stories, identifying the best ways to lighten our footprint on our fragile ecosystems, and to also commit to supporting sustainably-minded tourism operators and experiences highlighted in our stories. 

For tourism operators and businesses, they too can become more sustainably-minded by pursuing green certification from GreenStep or other sustainable certification organizations that provide a framework for supporting sustainable transitions, or by building partnerships with organizations like The Land Between. 

Join us in wandering sustainably this year. Let’s keep Ontario’s Highlands a diverse and thriving destination for all to enjoy – now, and in the future.