Northumberland, [October 11, 2023] – A significant milestone has been achieved in the effort to bring back the endangered Kirtland’s Warbler to the Oak Ridges Moraine and Ontario with the protection of a newly acquired 196-acre property in Northumberland. This project represents a crucial step towards increasing the population of Kirtland’s Warbler in Ontario while safeguarding the vital Oak Ridges Moraine.

The Oak Ridges Moraine Land Trust (ORMLT) is leading efforts to secure up to 2,000 acres (~800 hectares) by 2030 to restore the habitat that the warblers and other species at risk need. The focus is on the Oak Ridges Moraine with suitable soil types and intact ecosystems. Securing the land now is crucial due to rising prices and rapid development.

In March 2023, the first property for this project was secured with support from the Government of Canada through the federal Department of Environment and Climate Change’s Nature Smart Climate Solutions fund, the Province of Ontario’s Greenlands Conservation Partnership Program (GCPP), the MapleCross Fund, the Sitka Foundation, the McLean Foundation, ECHO Foundation and other private funders. The purchase of this property, located in Northumberland County, will support the Ontario Kirtland’s Warbler Restoration Initiative, a multi-partner project that aims to restore lost habitats and help return the endangered Kirtland’s Warbler to the Oak Ridges Moraine and Ontario.

This property provides an excellent opportunity for larger-scale restoration of the lost ecological communities that provide habitat to the globally rare Kirtland’s Warbler and many other species at risk. Restoration on this 196-acre (79 ha) property, located in Northumberland, will begin in 2024. Individuals or groups interested in volunteering for native seed collection, planting, or other related activities can visit the Oak Ridges Moraine Land Trust’s website for more information.

This property is directly adjacent to the Ganaraska Forest, which further enhances its use as the warbler’s habitat. The restoration work will help to expand this existing natural area and connect additional natural areas.

Along with substantial tracts of deciduous and mixed forest, the property also features a provincially significant wetland.

The securement and restoration of this property will meet the goals of the Nature Smart Climate Solutions fund by protecting and restoring a large area of land vulnerable to development, in an effort to mitigate the impacts of climate change.

The Kirtland’s Warbler, known as the “bird of fire,” depends on a very specialized habitat that grows after a forest fire. These pine/oak communities are found on dry sandy soils characteristic of the lower Great Lakes region. Suppression of fire and loss of viable breeding territory nearly caused this species to become extinct 50 years ago. With careful management, the population has increased, and in recent years, the warbler has begun to return to Canada.

Kirtland’s Warblers depend on specific young pine-oak habitats found in the Great Lakes region on sandy, well-drained soils. They build their nests on the ground using the lower branches of young Jack and Red pines and the unique ground vegetation found in these communities for shelter and protection.

Restoring Kirtland’s Warbler habitat in Ontario provides many benefits including:

  • Enhanced Biodiversity: Restoring the rare breeding ground habitat required by Kirtland’s warbler creates a resilient ecosystem that fosters increased biodiversity. This, in turn, benefits numerous other native plant and animal species, including multiple species at risk.
  • Habitat Connectivity: Restoration efforts contribute to the interconnection of habitats, enabling wildlife movement, gene flow, colonization, and population stability.
  • Ecosystem Services: Restoration has a positive impact on ecosystem services, including improvements in water quality, soil retention, pollination, and pest control.
  • Habitat Health Indicators: The presence of Kirtland’s Warbler serves as an indicator species, highlighting reduced habitat fragmentation, replacement of invasive species with native ones, and a balanced ecosystem.

Raising Conservation Awareness: The unique restoration efforts aimed at protecting this endangered species will increase public awareness of biodiversity, restoration, and ecosystem management. This will foster broader conservation efforts in communities across the moraine and beyond.

MapleCross Kirtland’s Warbler Property
Photo Credit: Oak Ridges Moraine Land Trust

Protected Property Features

  • 196 acres located on the Oak Ridges Moraine
  • Ideal size for restoring habitat for the endangered Kirtland’s Warbler and other species at-risk in Ontario.
  • High connectivity with other protected areas (adjacent to both the Ganaraska Forest and an Area of Natural and Scientific Interest [ANSI])
  • Identified under the Ontario Clean Water Act as a Highly Vulnerable Aquifer and a Significant Groundwater Recharge Area.
  • One provincially significant wetland and three other unevaluated wetlands.
  • Cold water stream with a well-vegetated riparian zone.
  • Dry, glacial sands suitable for restoration of the young pine-oak forest habitats needed by the Kirtland’s warbler and many other species at risk.


I am extremely proud of the work our government and our partners are doing thanks to our made-in-Ontario Greenlands Conservation Partnership program to help conserve nature across our beautiful province. Since the program was launched in 2020, together with the help of conservation leaders we have protected over 420,000 acres – an area two-and-a-half times the footprint of the City of Toronto. Collaborations like this not only safeguard unique natural areas, but also help restore the habitat of species like the Kirtland’s Warbler and ensure Ontario’s biodiversity can thrive for generations to come.” – Andrea Khanjin, Minister of the Environment, Conservation and Parks

 Part of the magic of nature is a sense of place. The loss of nature through man’s activities brings with it a loss of a sense of place. Not just for the animals we love but also for our human society. We are all connected. Not only do I think that everybody should appreciate nature, but that they should also appreciate how nature engenders a deeper understanding of the places we live. This effort to restore the habitat for Kirtland’s Warbler and other important species represents an opportunity to rebuild a sense of place rooted in the special nature that occurs in southern Ontario. I’m impressed and grateful that a new generation is tackling such an important task.”  – Robert Bateman, Naturalist and Painter

This ambitious project to restore the habitat for Kirtland’s Warbler and other species in southern Ontario is the type of conservation action that can inspire a generation! Not only will it protect important biodiversity, it will rebuild a “green infrastructure” that benefits us all. I’m very pleased to see the spirit of cooperation going on between American and Canadian agencies to achieve this. It’s an example of an enduring cooperation that has successfully protected migratory birds for over 100 years under the Canada US Migratory Bird Act!”  – Frank B. Gill, Former Senior Vice President and Director for Science, National Audubon Society

MapleCross Kirtland’s Warbler Property Photo Credit: Oak Ridges Moraine Land Trust


The Oak Ridges Moraine Land Trust, a registered charitable organization, was formed in 2000 by citizens interested in protecting the Moraine.

The Oak Ridges Moraine Land Trust works to ensure a healthy and thriving ecosystem in and surrounding the Moraine. The Land Trust ensures significant Moraine, Greenbelt and Simcoe properties are protected for future generations through agreements with landowners, protection of private lands and on-going stewardship. To date, the Trust has protected over 2,132 ha (5,269 acres) of land on 67 properties.

Over $11.7M in funding will be provided from Environment and Climate Change Canada’s (ECCC)’s Nature Smart Climate Solutions Fund (NSCSF) to the Ontario Land Trust Alliance to support nature-based projects that promote carbon storage and capture while providing important habitat for species at risk and/or species of cultural and local importance. This is part of the $1.4 billion that Canada has invested in the Nature Smart Climate Solutions Fund. These funds will be matched from other sources including individual donations and foundation support, as well as other levels of government.

The Greenlands Conservation Partnership helps conserve ecologically important natural areas and protect wetlands, grasslands and forests that help mitigate the effects of climate change. Through the Greenlands Conservation Partnership, a total of $38 million has been invested to date by the Ontario government. Additional match funds are raised from other sources, such as individual donations and foundation support through the Nature Conservancy of Canada and the Ontario Land Trust Alliance, and other levels of government.

Kirtland's Warbler looking on a

The Kirtland’s Warbler (Setophaga kirtlandii) Photo Credit: Dianne Doran



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CONTACT:  Susan Walmer, Chief Executive Officer,  Oak Ridges Moraine Land Trust , 5595 17th Sideroad, Schomberg, ON L0G 1T0

Telephone – 905-939-3333 x32