Located in the Township of Tarbutt, Ontario, (35km southeast of Sault Ste. Marie), in Robinson-Huron Treaty Territory, the traditional territory of the Anishnaabe, specifically the Garden River, Batchewana, and Thessalon First Nations, as well as Metis People, Bowen Island is a 15-acre island with 1.28 km (4,200 feet) of shoreline. The island lies in the St. Joseph Channel of Lake Huron, a section of the St. Marys River, which connects Lake Superior to Lake Huron. Bowen Island is a part of the Foreshaw Island Complex, which has been identified as one of the key island complexes for biodiversity conservation within the St. Marys River, and is located within the St. Marys River Complex Important Bird Area. The area is significant for breeding species such as the Black Tern, Common Tern, Least Bittern, Bald Eagle and Osprey. It is also an important stopover area for migrating birds such as the Rusty Blackbird and a variety of congregating waterfowl.

With the assistance and facilitation of The Kensington Conservancy (TKC), the American owners of Bowen Island, Alden and Connie Meyer, generously donated their property to American Friends of Canadian Conservation (AFCC). The managing and environmental stewardship of Bowen Island will be the responsibility of TKC.

Alden says, “my wife Connie and I were thrilled when we were able to acquire Bowen Island in the early 90s; kayaking in and out of its deep bay, watching the blue herons, eagles, and osprey soar over its tall evergreens, and hiking on the trails the deer have created through its woods have become a treasured part of our experience every summer since then. Knowing that Bowen Island is protected in perpetuity so that generations to come can share that same experience gives us great joy.”

This project is TKC’s first partnership with AFCC. Funding from the Ontario Land Trust Alliance and Government of Ontario through the Greenlands Conservation Partnership, as well as generous donations from community members, helped make it possible.

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.

“Protecting natural areas like Bowen Island is a reminder of the importance of working together to conserve and restore even more greenspaces, leaving a legacy for future generations,” said Andrea Khanjin, Minister of the Environment, Conservation and Parks. “I want to thank Alden and Connie Meyer for their incredible generosity and the hard work and dedication of The Kensington Conservancy and the Ontario Land Trust Alliance. Since 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.”

The proximity of the St. Joseph Channel to the US/Canada border with Michigan has led to generations of Americans coming here for vacations, and consequently acquiring property. AFCC and TKC staff have been looking for opportunities to partner to protect these properties for many years. Hopefully more such opportunities will now be possible. In the future, TKC will request a transfer of ownership of the island to TKC.