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The Catchacoma Forest

The unprotected Catchacoma Forest (662 ha; 1,655 acres) is threatened by both logging and the hemlock woolly adelgid and is located contiguous to the NW portion of Kawartha Highlands Provincial Park at the north end of Catchacoma Lake in Catchacoma, Trent Lakes Municipality, Ontario.  Despite being the largest known old-growth eastern hemlock forest stand remaining in Canada with trees over 375 yrs. old, it was logged in the winter of 2020-21 and is scheduled for more logging by the Bancroft Minden Forest Company per the new 10-yr. forest management plan (2021-2030).  Roughly 90% pristine (unlogged), the Forest also contains many wetlands, streams, small and large lakes, and riparian ecosystems; and it is home to at least 14 species-at-risk including the Algonquin wolf, Blanding's turtle and cerulean warbler.  It is easily accessible to millions of Ontarians being only a two-hour drive from the GTA and a one-hour drive from Peterborough.

AFER has been conducting field studies in this forest since 2019 with assistance from many individuals and groups including several cohorts of excellent grade 11 and 12 students from the Youth Leadership in Sustainability Program in Peterborough. Despite active resistance from the Ontario government and the Bancroft Minden Forest Company our work has shown that: (1) this landscape is composed primarily of pristine old-growth eastern hemlock forest landscape, (2) government data underestimates forest stand ages by as much as 58 years, and (3) the financial value of leaving the Catchacoma Forest unlogged is at least ten times greater than the financial value of the timber removed from the Forest. Only a sub-set (<half) of natural capital values were used for this study; consideration of additional natural capital values would substantially increase the total financial value of the Forest.

AFER and the Ontario Wilderness Committee have joined forces to create the Catchacoma Forest Stewardship Committee (CFSC) to develop a strategy to protect and maintain the unique and exceptional biodiversity and ecological integrity of this endangered old-growth landscape, and its ability to sequester and store huge amounts of carbon. The CFSC also recognizes and promotes the immense value of this forest for recreation, education, research, and spiritual renewal.

Catchacoma Map.webp

The Facts

1. Natural eastern hemlock forests are endangered ecosystems in Ontario and are likely so throughout the remainder of their eastern North American range. At their current rate of loss, natural eastern hemlock forests could be eliminated from the landscape by 2075.

2. The Catchacoma Forest (662 ha; 1655 ac.) is the largest documented old-growth eastern hemlock stand in Canada based on MNRF FRI data (1987), scientific literature and numerous recent field data. Our field data for the Central Catchacoma Forest shows that the mean density of mother trees (old-growth trees - big, old) is 149/ha. This is among the highest mother tree densities in Canada's eastern temperate forests.

3. The Catchacoma Forest is more than an old-growth forest – it is an ancient forested landscape also containing many other types of pristine ecosystems including wetlands, streams, small lakes and riparian zones. In addition, it contains individuals and/or habitat for at least 14 species at risk including the Algonquin wolf.

4. Ontarians, Canadians and all of humanity are facing at least two crises that threaten the future of the planet: one is the biodiversity loss crisis, the other is the climate warming crisis. Relative to the latter crisis, the managed (logged) forest region of Canada is no longer a sink for carbon storage, but rather it is now a significant source of CO2.

5. It is now generally accepted that old-growth forests store and sequester more CO2 than any other terrestrial ecosystem type on earth, and that they support a higher than average number of species across all Kingdoms including many that are “at risk” of extinction.

6. The Canadian Federal Government commitment to increasing biodiversity protection to 30% land cover means that biodiversity protection in the region logged by the Bancroft Minden Forest Company BMFC) (9% officially protected) must increase by 208,000 ha or 21% of the Company region.

7. By protecting the Catchacoma Forest as a community-based reserve that is inclusive of all interested parties, this reserve would not provide timber for producing pallets and garden mulch, however it would provide the following benefits to society at the local, regional and international levels:

  • spiritual respite and renewal,

  • physiological and mental health benefits to people immersed within the Forest,

  • both formal and informal education,

  • scientific study of landscape baseline conditions including carbon dynamics and biodiversity conservation,

  • long-term studies as the best way to truly understand nature,

  • storage and sequestration of CO2,

  • provide habitat for rare, threatened and endangered species,

  • provide for the most natural conditions possible to support natural evolution (unimpeded by humans),

  • to function as a sentinel of biological invasions (e.g., hemlock woolly adelgid) that are on the rise globally,

  • adds a separate and contiguous area to Kawartha Highlands Provincial Park making the region more resilient to both climate change and biodiversity loss, and

  • provides for current recreational activities with potential for more light trail-based activities.

8. From an economic perspective, the Catchacoma Forest is at least 10 times more valuable if left unlogged.


9. Logging contingency areas are available to replace the removal of 662 ha from the BMFC productive forest. 

10. To not protect the Catchacoma Forest from logging is to miss a significant opportunity to address two global environmental issues that are extremely important to the public, including the positive public relations that could be achieved. In addition, the BMFC and/or the Ontario government could decrease the amount of protection required for the BMFC logging region to 207,388 ha if logging was removed and the 662 ha were converted to protected status.

Conserving Catchacoma: The Documentary

Partnership with Youth Leadership in Sustainability (YLS)

The Peterborough Old-Growth Forest Project (funded by the Ontario Trillium Foundation) was enhanced through a partnership with Youth Leadership in Sustainability (YLS). Based in Peterborough, Ontario, YLS is an innovative, experiential-learning program that prepares grades 11 and 12 students for leadership roles in environmental sustainability initiatives at local to global levels. 


In 2019, AFER approached the YLS class with a unique citizen science project opportunity. The AFER team had recently discovered that the area now known as the Catchacoma Forest appeared to hold a significant expanse of old-growth. However, they still needed to conduct considerable field work in the Forest to assess for old-growth features and better understand the ecology, natural history, and conservation values of the area. The YLS class and their founder and teacher, Cam Douglas, enthusiastically joined AFER's call and were soon venturing into the Forest to learn about citizen science and old-growth forest ecology first hand as they helped AFER survey the most accessible portions of the Catchacoma Forest.


During this initial visit into the Forest, students and facilitators noticed painted yellow rings around many of the trees in the Forest and shockingly realized that much of this old-growth was soon to be logged. Research quickly made its way into advocacy, which continues to this day. 

AFER and YLS have continued to collaborate in research and education in the Catchacoma Forest. Every year a different YLS class comes to the Forest to aid AFER's citizen science research and to learn about old-growth forest ecology, conservation biology, citizen science, forest management, and environmental advocacy



Stewardship of Primary Forests: Opportunities to Protect Canada’s Largest Eastern Hemlock Old-growth Forest at Catchacoma Lake, Ontario (RR #47, 2024)

Rapid Initial Ecological Survey of Wetlands in the Catchacoma Forest (FLB #39, 2023)

Catchacoma Forest Species Inventory 2022 Field Season (RR #45, 2023)

Environmental Education and Public Outreach: Catchacoma Forest, PART 2 only (RR #44, pt 2, 2023)

Environmental Education and Public Outreach for the Stewardship of Primary Forests: The Catchacoma Old-growth Forest (full report) (RR #44, 2023)

Carbon Storage and CO2 Produced by Logging in the Catchacoma Forest (RR #43, 2023)

Mother Tree Survey in the Central Portion of the Catchacoma Forest, Update (PRB #13, 2022)

2022 Field Season Results Update, Catchacoma Forest, Trent Lakes, Ontario (PRB #12, 2022)

Establishing a Long-term, Permanent-Plot Research Program: Report Methods (RR #42, 2022)

Natural Heritage Values of the Unprotected Catchacoma Forest (RR #42, 2021)

Rapid Old-growth Survey in the Heart of the Catchacoma Forest by YLS Students (PRB #11, 2021)

Comparing Stand Ages Using Tree Cores and Forest Resource Inventory Mapping from 1987 and 2007 in the Catchacoma Forest (PRB #10, 2021)

Rapid Assessment of Old-growth Characteristics in the Catchacoma Forest (PRB #9, 2020)

Catchacoma Forest Species and Habitat Inventory (RR #39, 2020)

Catchacoma Forest Natural (Ecosystem Services) Capital vs Timber (Logging) Value (FLB #37, 2020)

The Catchacoma Ancient Hemlock Forest: Largest of its Type in Canada (FLP #35, 2019)

Catchacoma Forest Site Visit Report (SVR #7, 2019)

Press Coverage

MECP Minister rejects protection for Catchacoma forest, Peterborough Examiner (2022)

Peterborough letter: Protect Ontario turtles where they live,  Peterborough Examiner (2022)

Connecting with the environment and community at the 2022 ReFrame Film (2022)

Peterborough letter: Piccini could prove himself via Catchacoma Forest, Peterborough Examiner (2021)

Fundraiser underway for documentary film about efforts to protect old-growth trees in Peterborough County’s Catchacoma Forest, (2021)

Time is Running Out for Catchacoma, Peterborough Examiner (2021)

We Need to Protect Rare Ecosystems: A Response to 'Support Loggers', National Post (2021)

Opinion: Support loggers, don't vandalize them. They're environmental heroes, National Post (2021)

Catchacoma Forest Logger Deserves Conservationists’ Respect, Peterborough Examiner (2020)

A Catastrophe at the Catchacoma Forest, Peterborough Examiner (2020)

Guardians of Peterborough County’s Hemlock Forest, Peterborough Examiner (2020)

Green Giants, Ontario Nature (2020)

Exploring the Forest, Deep in the Land Between, Peterborough Examiner (2020)

The Catchacoma Forest and Climate Change, (2020)

Catchacoma Forest Isn't Endangered Old Growth, Peterborough Examiner (2020)

Where Trees have Stood for Centuries in Peterborough and the Kawarthas, Peterborough Examiner (2020)


Logging and Forest Management Planning

1. Background

Timeline of Public Participation in Catchacoma Forest Management

Current Logging Map for the Catchacoma Forest

Draft Forest Management Plan (Bancroft Minden Forest Region)

Independent Forest Audit of the Bancroft-Minden Forest (2018)

Final FSC Audit of the Bancroft Minden Forest Company (2021) 

Sign-on Letter to Pursue Protection for the Catchacoma Forest

Forest Management Planning in Ontario

2. Management Concerns & Plan Review Submissions

Comments on the 2023 Forest Stewardship Council Audit of the Bancroft Minden Forest Company (August 21, 2023)

Submission to the Forest Stewardship Council Audit of the Bancroft Minden Forest Company (September 21, 2021)

Review of the Draft Forest Management Plan 2021-2031 (May 6, 2021)

Review of Proposed Operations 2021-2031 for Bancroft Minden Forest (Feb. 1, 2021)

Unresolved Issues from the LTMD Review submitted on Oct. 15, 2020 (Nov. 17, 2020)

Review of the Proposed Long Term Management Direction (LTMD) for the Bancroft Minden Forest  Management Plan (Oct. 4, 2020)

Values of the Catchacoma Old-growth Forest, submitted to the Forest Stewardship Council (Aug. 25, 2020)

Letter to Bancroft-Minden Forest Company - New FSC Standard (June 1, 2020)

Meeting Notes: with Bancroft-Minden Forest Company & MNRF (Feb. 13, 2020)

The Catchacoma Old-growth Forest – An Endangered Ecosystem: A Meeting with Bancroft Minden Forest Company  (2020)

Letters to the MNRF and MECP (Dec. 5, 2019)

Letter to Bancroft Minden Forest Company - Old Growth at Catchacoma (Nov. 4, 2019)

Youth Leadership in Sustainability Letter to Bancroft Minden Forest Company (Nov. 4, 2019)

3. Responses from the Forest Management Team

Proposed Operations Review Response from MNRF (Feb. 24, 2021)

Species-at-risk at the Catchacoma Forest, Response from MNRF (Jan. 22, 2021)

Unresolved Issues, Response from MNRF (Jan. 11, 2021)

LTMD Review Response from MNRF (Nov. 4, 2020)

Other Resources

Educational Experiences in the Catchacoma Forest: A Brochure (2023)

Species-at-risk in and near the Catchacoma Old-Growth Forest (2020)


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