In recent years an awakening concern for the environment has made large forest reserves like Haliburton Forest more important than ever. A wide variety of scientific and recreational activities have been attracted to the site because of the uniquely large size of the protected wilderness,, its location close to urban centres and the goals the owners have set for the property - they intend that Haliburton Forest be preserved in its present, undeveloped state.
Haliburton Forest... the Early Days
The northern townships of Peterborough County in the British North-American Province of Upper Canada were first surveyed during the winters of 1862/63.
Two years later ten of those townships, basically the present municipality of Dysart et al, were sold to the London based "Canadian Land and Emigration Company" under the leadership of Thomas Chandler Haliburton.
The company planned on subdividing its extensive holdings into 100 acre lots and selling them to European and American immigrants as farmland. Those plans crumbled as
soon as it became obvious that the lands in question, with the exception of small parcels, were unsuitable for agriculture. The company went into receivership and was renamed the "Canadian Land and Immigration Company", with headquarters in Toronto.
By the 1930's 70,000 acres still remained in the hands of the repeatedly renamed Algonquin Corporation. Its main objective was the exploitation of the extensive forests on its holdings in Havelock, Eyre, Harburn, and Guilford Townships.
This represented the second generation of timber harvesting, after the lands had been stripped of its vast white pine stands before the turn of the century. Over a period of 40 years, from 1870 to 1910, at different locations on what is today Haliburton Forest, winter logging camps were established. Local residents were hired by lumber companies, who had acquired cutting rights to log the valuable virgin white pine stands and float the logs to the south and east. Today only faint remains suggest the location of old camps, dams or log-shoots.
The plateau between Little Redstone and Kennisis Lakes served as a base for one of the early logging companies. Approximately 70 acres had been cleared on either side of the traditional portage between the two lakes and a farm was established. The field pine at the present Base Camp as well as the stone piles, the remains of an old roothouse, and the decayed logs of an old blacksmiths shop, remind one of the pioneer past. From this first base at the top of Redstone Lake supplies were forwarded by horse drawn sleighs to Depot Lake - the name indicating the existence of a depot - from which the individual logging camps picked up their food and equipment.
After Algonquin Corporation had been acquired by Hay and Co., a veneer mill from Woodstock, Ontario in 1942, the farm clearing between Redstone and Kennisis Lakes was converted into a sawmill yard. Here, between 1944 and 1971 more than 150 million board feet of lumber were sawn. Additionally, several million board feet of veneer left northern Haliburton bound for the mother mill in Woodstock. Most of the timber contained in these volumes was cut on the land that today makes up Haliburton Forest.
By 1960 two detailed forest inventories suggested that the harvestable volume of timber was rapidly declining on Hay and Co. lands, which had been taken over in the meantime by Weldwood of Canada. The decline caused by high-grading and over-harvesting during the past seemed so detrimental to future production, that the sale of the land was decided on.
In 1962 German Baron von Fuerstenberg acquired the Welwood property and renamed his holding: "Haliburton Forest and Wild Life Reserve Ltd.".
Previously the lakeshores of Redstone and Kennisis Lakes had been sold off to a development company. The timber rights were to remain with the Weldwood mill until 1967 before being turned over to the new owners. A few years later, in 1970, the sawmill at Kennisis Lake closed down.
What's Happening at Haliburton Forest?
The traditional activities on which Haliburton Forest has always depended and which have prevented development from destroying this wilderness treasure are still underway. Logging is conducted on an extensive scale and in a way that actually improves the quality of the forest, a major reversal of past practices. Rather than taking the best wood, the company's foresters mark and take out the low quality and mature trees. The result will be a very high quality, healthy forest for the future. Haliburton Forest's management practices have attracted international acclaim, resulting in the awarding of Canada's first FSC® forest management certification.
More recently a sawmill has been constructed, which is milling the timber from the extensive holdings.
Canada's first FSC certified, responsible forest
Being privately owned, Haliburton Forest is striking a balance between the short-term requirements of a successful, operational business and the long-term needs of responsible resource use and conservation. Over the past 5 decades its 80.000 acres were transformed from a depleted forestry holding to a thriving, multi-use operation which contributes economically and environmentally to the long-term stability of the surrounding, rural community. By being economically successful, Haliburton Forest provides employment as well as environmental benefits to owners, staff and the public at large. Haliburton Forest has achieved many "firsts". One achievement along the way and confirmation of its leading role in conservation and responsible resource management was its certification as a "responsible forest" - as first forest in Canada - under the stringent guidelines of the Forest Stewardship Council® (FSC).
Awarded Rainforest Alliance's first forest certification in Canada in 1998 and subsequently recertified, Haliburton Forest serves as a forest management role model in a country that represents one of the world's final forest frontiers. Together with Russia and Brazil, Canada is home to nearly 70 percent of the world's total forestland.
Haliburton Forest is returning to its roots
In order to control the forest product chain from stump to final forest product, Haliburton Forest commissioned its own sawmill in the spring of 2009. One year later a woodshop was added, which makes wood products from Haliburton Forest - from raw lumber and timbers to custom designed furniture, paddles and other items - available to the general public. While The Woodshop is open year-round, the sawmill is open to the public through organised mill tours. Arrangements for these can be made through the Haliburton Forest office.
"The Living Forest"
If you are further interested in Haliburton Forest, its management and history, please inquire about the book "The Living Forest", an outline of Haliburton Forest, authored by Peter Schleifenbaum and Brent Wootton, with artwork by renowned Haliburton artist David Alexander Risk and printed on certified paper from Haliburton Forest. A second part to this popular book was recently pubished, covering the recent developments at Haliburton Forest.