Limberlost Forest and Wildlife Reserve receives international forestry leadership award


Limberlost at FSC Leadership Awards

Limberlost Forest and Wildlife Reserve, in conjunction with the Haliburton Forest and Wildlife Reserve and the Timmins Forest and Wildlife Reserve, has received a Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) Leadership Award. The three properties share a FSC forest management certification that began in Haliburton 20 years ago and which they’ve maintained since then “to supply responsibly sourced forest products and sustain the land for nature lovers,” said the FSC in a release.

“We are very happy and honoured to have received that award,” said Limberlost’s managing director, Gareth Cockwell. “It shows (our employees, directors and owners) that we really are doing our best to run a sustainable forest that goes beyond just conscientious forest management… It has helped remind everybody that we really are working at a special place towards a special goal. It has had a really positive impact already.”

Michael Churchman, general manager, and Gareth Cockwell, managing director at Limberlost Forest and Wildlife Reserve with the reserve's FSC Leadership Award (Photo courtesy of Gareth Cockwell)

Limberlost Forest and Wildlife Reserve encompasses more than 10,000 acres of mixed forest northeast of Huntsville. It contains more than 70 kilometres of trails for hiking, biking, cross-country skiing and snowshoeing that are available to the public free of charge for day use. They rent a variety of accommodations from chalets and cottages to fish camps and camp sites. They have a longstanding partnership with Trails Youth Initiative, which brings inner-city kids to the reserve as part of its programs. And they practice a sustainable forestry management program that includes harvesting trees for wood products.

“There’s often a lot of confusion around what is forestry and it’s a lot more than just writing a management plan, and knocking trees down and selling your timber. It has to do with managing the whole landscape,” noted Cockwell. “We call it multi-use forestry. It’s marrying sustainable management of our land base—which is partly our harvesting, partly our stocking, partly our trail network and roads—balanced with our day users and our rental users… We are spending a terrific amount of time and resources ensuring that we’re not just servicing one small chunk of our customer base, our wood buyers, but we are servicing everybody and that’s what makes this leadership award so special for us. It’s a recognition of the multi-use program that we have put in place.”

Although Limberlost has been publicly accessible for many years, it’s only been in the last few that awareness has begun to really increase. “We are getting more attention, getting more visitors in, and we are having a positive impact on more and more people every day which is spectacular for us in achieving our objective to really reduce barriers to outdoor experience,” said Cockwell. “We are putting money into the trail systems. And coming into winter now we are really keen on developing a free ski trail network… It looks like we will be firing up our new groomer a lot earlier than expected this year.”

You can find a map of all of the hiking and ski trails at the reserve at

Limberlost Challenge participants get to enjoy scenic views like this one when they're not focused on the trail ahead (Photo: Jack Page)

With the addition of the Timmins Forest and Wildlife Reserve, a boreal forest quite different from the two more southern properties, the group now manages about a quarter of a million acres of land in Ontario. “We are working across Ontario and that has our team quite excited,” said Cockwell. “That’s a lot of space, a lot of different ecosystems and communities. We are having a blast.”

But the award doesn’t mean that they’ll be maintaining the status quo, added Cockwell. “They want you to progress and improve. None of our programs are perfect, but…the idea is that we are fluid and we are always changing and we will continue to do be trying to do our best to keep up with new pressures.”

It’s not the first time Limberlost has received an award for its efforts. Earlier this year, Forests Ontario presented the reserve with its Robert de Pencier Award for “outstanding activities in private land forest management and strong support for forestry promotion, education and understanding.”

Article published by Dawn Huddlestone of the Huntsville Doppler on November 20th 2018