Learn More About Haliburton Forest Staff & Our History
Already over 50 years old, here’s why Haliburton Forest will be here for another 100 years
Haliburton Forest is an unusual company. It is an outdoor lover’s paradise and a wood lover’s dream. It is a research facility and an education centre. It is a property where members of our community make their livelihoods, and thousands of visitors make their day. Haliburton Forest is 100,000 acres, 100 lakes, and millions of trees, and it is home to countless creatures. Above all, and always, it is a sustainably managed forest.
In summary, Haliburton Forest is one company with two divisions and seven businesses. We provide year-round employment to 60 people and work closely on a regular basis with 30 independent contractors. With a skilled management team and a tight operational focus, our business strategy is to be environmentally sustainable, socially responsible, and economically viable in everything that we do, in order that Haliburton Forest may grow and improve over the very long term.
This is the story of who we are and what we do, beginning with our history, leading into the present, and ending with a vision for where we will be in 100 years.
The Modern Era
Haliburton Forest took on its current form in the early-1960s, when it was purchased by the Schleifenbaum Family. This family had a different view from the past owners: the land deserved to be managed in its natural state, not exploited for short-term gain. They set about creating the diverse and vibrant business that Haliburton Forest is known for today.
In 1988, Dr. Peter Schleifenbaum moved to Haliburton Forest from Germany and began implementing a new program of sustainable forest management. Under his leadership, Haliburton Forest doubled in land area, offered dozens of recreational activities, built its own wood processing facilities, and was recognized as the first sustainable forest in Canada.
More recently, the company has changed again. A number of families are now involved in the ownership of Haliburton Forest. A team of professional managers is responsible for the operations. Despite these changes, the mandate to conduct sustainable forest management and educate the public about forest ecology continues to be embraced by everyone at Haliburton Forest.
Today, Haliburton Forest is an integrated and diversified company that can be summarized with two simple statements. First, it is a sustainable multi-use private land stewardship company. Second, it is one company with two divisions and seven businesses. This may sound mind-boggling – and some days, even we feel that it is rather complicated – but the next sections provide additional context.
Over the millennia, the land that is now owned and managed by Haliburton Forest was mostly uninhabited by First Nations peoples. Like most forests in Canada, there is a knowledge gap on this subject. But to the best of our knowledge, the presence of the Algonquin and other First Nations peoples was intermittent due to the challenging terrain and brutal winters.
Industrial activities began in the late-1800s with the arrival of the timber barons and pioneers. The lumberjacks and sawmillers that followed performed widespread high-grading throughout Haliburton Forest. This changed the forests in a negative way: the merchantable timber was depleted, and the presence of some species like White pine was nearly eliminated.
Hay & Company took ownership of the property in the 1940s. They built an enormous sawmill with a big, flat yard – an area that has since been modified, and is now known as Base Camp. Some of the buildings at Base Camp, such as the Logging Museum, date back to Hay & Company. By the mid-20th century, the property had been depleted of timber and the sawmill burned down.
Tourism & Recreation Division
The first division of Haliburton Forest is the Tourism & Recreation division. This is the part of the business that most people know best and it tends to be the “face” of Haliburton Forest. The Tourism & Recreation division includes two businesses.
The Ecotourism business includes dogsledding, snowmobiling, Canopy Tours, the Wolf Centre, Group Experiences, camping, accommodations, and many day uses. Our Ecotourism business is consistently recognized as one of the premiere destinations in Canada for wilderness adventures, and has been kindly described as “remarkable, “quirky and charming,” and “break-taking.”
The Leases & Land Use business services more than 1,000 lessees, who make use of 30 hunt clubs and an enormous variety of campsites. Many of these lessees have been regularly visiting Haliburton Forest for decades – one of the hunt clubs actually pre-dates Canadian Confederation. We work closely with these long-term stakeholders throughout the year.
Our mission with the Tourism & Recreation division is to share our property with others people and earn our “social license” every day – in this manner, we try to set an example for large private landowners around the world.
Forest Products Division
The second division of Haliburton Forest is the Forest Products division. This is the part of the business that is responsible for our reputation as a sustainable company. The Forest Products division includes five businesses.
The Forest Management business includes silvicultural strategy, logging operations, infrastructure development, and scientific research. It is thanks to the efforts of the Forest Management crew that Haliburton Forest is one of the most researched natural forests in the world.
The Commercial Forest Products business operates a mid-sized hardwood sawmill that produces lumber and residues, Eco-Log Homes, and large firewood splitter. This business was created to fulfill our ethical and economic obligation to add value to the wood that we harvest from our forest.
The Retail Forest Products business, which produces handmade canoeing paddles and offers custom woodworking, is the heart of our value-added manufacturing operations. Our focus with this business is creating beautiful wood products at competitive prices.
Haliburton Forest Biochar and Wood Heat & Power, which are emerging businesses in the start-up phase, both focus on using wood to create high quality products that competitively displace fossil fuel products in the manufacturing and energy sectors.
Our mission in the Forest Products business is to improve our forest over the long-term by protecting the ecological integrity of our property while producing valuable wood products in a sustainable manner at competitive prices.
Haliburton Forest is a forest first, and a business second. This means that our owners and managers have a very long-term perspective. We tend to think in terms of years and decades rather than months and seasons. While nobody can know what the future holds, we have a good feeling about some of the challenges and opportunities that we will face over the next 100 years. What follows is a quick summary of the top items that come to mind when we look to the future.
Challenge: The environment will be different.
Whether climate change is anthropogenic or natural, we believe that the climate of Haliburton Forest will be similar to that of Maryland or Virginia within 100 years. This will affect the species composition and growth of our forest and its inhabitants. We also expect more invasive species – from Beech Bark Disease to Hemlock Woolly Adelgid – to have an impact on our forest. These changes are for the most part negative, and something that we are working to address through research partnerships with institutions like the University of Toronto.
Opportunity: Our clients will be more diverse.
The demographics of Canada have always been in flux, but the changes are happening faster and faster. This is a positive development for our company and our society. We are already seeing more “new Canadians” visiting Haliburton Forest, as one of their first efforts to experience the incredible natural beauty of central Ontario. We are also seeing the tastes and interests of traditional clients change as they move through stages of life. We will continue to redesign some of our experiences to accommodate the changing cultural needs and social interests of all of our supporters and visitors.
Challenge: Competition will continue to be strong.
Both of our divisions face strong competition. For example, we will continue to compete with low-cost resorts in the Caribbean as well as cheaply (and poorly) manufactured wood products from China. Our competitors are smart and innovative. We will strive to remain competitive by sticking to our principles: offering exceptional experiences and products at a forest where sustainable management and the protection of ecological integrity are the priority.
Opportunity: We will become bigger and better.
The current management team at Haliburton Forest has a very clear mandate: get better at everything that we do, and grow into our installed capacity. This mandate extends to every aspect of the operation, from snowmobiling and sawmilling to dogsledding and logging. We expect to continue growing and improving with respect to our many operations, as well as the land base itself. Achieving this mandate in a sustainable manner will be challenging, but it is a huge opportunity.
Haliburton Forest is a unique company responsible for the sustainable management of a remarkable piece of land. Over the next 100 years, our owners and management team will continue to embrace each challenge as an opportunity to improve, with an ongoing focus on enhancing and improving each aspect of the operation. We will work with our clients, stakeholders, and partners to continue earning an excellent reputation within both the Tourism & Recreation and Forest Products divisions.
The owners and managers of Haliburton Forest are big believers in transparency, both inside and outside the company. More information about our operations is available throughout our website. However, if any of the information presented here piques your interest, or if you simply want to learn more about how, what, and why we do what we do, please feel free to contact us by telephone or email.