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 livelihood, and thousands of visitors make their day. It is a major force in the hardwood lumber industry, with three operating sawmills. It is 100,000 acres, 100 lakes, and millions of trees, and it is home to countless creatures.

Above all, and always, Haliburton Forest is a sustainably managed forest.

In summary, Haliburton Forest is one company with two divisions and over 20 businesses. We provide year-round employment to 150 people and work closely on a regular basis with 50 independent contractors. We have a skilled management team, devoted staff, and a hands-on-get-it-done attitude. Our business strategy is to be environmentally sustainable, socially responsible, and economically viable in everything that we do, in order that Haliburton Forest may prosper 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.

Brief History

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.

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. A Board of Directors oversees their work. 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 over 20 businesses. This may sound mind-boggling – and some days, even we feel that it is rather complicated – but the next sections provide additional context for how it all works.

Tourism & Recreation

The first division of Haliburton Forest is the Tourism & Recreation division. This is the part of the business that the public knows best, as it tends to be the “face” of Haliburton Forest. The Tourism & Recreation division includes more than a dozen businesses.

Ecotourism is a catch-all business that offers Dogsledding, Snowmobiling, Canopy Tours, Wolf Centre, Group Experiences, Camping, Accommodations, and many day uses that focus on our Recreational Trails. 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, authentic, and charming.”

Leases & Land Use provides services to more than 1,000 lessees, who make use of 30 Hunt Clubs and a wide variety of Leased Sites. Many of these lessees have been regularly visiting Haliburton Forest for decades – in fact, one of the hunt clubs actually pre-dates Canadian Confederation. We work closely with these long-term stakeholders throughout the year, as they are our greatest partners in protecting the land that we own and manage.

The Cookhouse strives to serve creative, classy, comfort food. We believe that The Cookhouse is unique in the sense that one day you may sit next to a logger relaxing after a long day of working in the woods, and the next day you may be across from a well-healed cottager seeking respite on Kennisis Lake from their very important work in the city. The Cookhouse serves this wide range of guests, while also providing take-out, prepared frozen meals, and private catering options.

And finally, through Yours Outdoors, we provide bespoke, authentic, experiences within and far beyond the borders of Haliburton Forest. From beer tasting tours to flintlock musket lessons, we work closely with dozens of local experience providers in order to share the best of the Haliburton Highlands with guests from around the world.

Our mission with the Tourism & Recreation division is to share our property with others and to earn our social license every day. In this manner, we try to set an example for large private landowners around the world.

 

Forest Products

The second division of Haliburton Forest is the Forest Products division. This is the part of the business that is primarily responsible for our reputation as a sustainable company. The Forest Products division includes six businesses.

Forest Management is staffed with professional foresters and forestry technicians. This group is responsible for silvicultural strategy, logging operations, infrastructure development, and scientific research on our own property as well as on the Crown forests for which we are responsible. 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.

Stewardship Services is an extension program of Forest Management, whereby our team provides services to other landowners across central Ontario. Our focus is on larger landowners who are interested in actively managing their woodlots, but we are always interested in speaking to landowners of all sizes. Providing these services is motivated primarily by our desire to help other landowners achieve the highest levels of sustainable forest management.

Huntsville Forest Products, Almaguin Forest Products, and the Haliburton Forest Sawmill are the three hardwood sawmills owned and operated by Haliburton Forest. These facilities produce over 20 million fbm of hardwood lumber per year, and market large volumes of sawlogs, veneer logs, pulpwood, firewood, and sawmill co-products to other facilities across North America.

Eco-Log Homes is a customized log home kit production business, which utilizes the Hemlock timber produced within Haliburton Forest. For more than 25 years, we have provided clients with small cabins, full-sized cottages, and everything in between. This business was created to fulfill our ethical and economic obligation to add value to the wood that we harvest from our forest.

Haliburton Forest Biochar, which is an emerging business in its start-up phase, focuses on using low quality wood to create high quality products that can competitively displace fossil fuel products in advanced manufacturing processes.

Our mission in the Forest Products business is to improve our forest over the long-term by protecting the ecological integrity of our property, providing management services to other landowners, and produce valuable wood products in a sustainable manner at competitive prices.

 

The Future

Haliburton Forest is a forest first, and a business second. This means that our management team has 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.

Even more concerning than climate change, we also expect more invasive species – including pests like Beech Bark Disease or Hemlock Woolly Adelgid and plants like Garlic Mustard or Phragmites – to have an impact on our property. These changes are for the most part negative, and something that we are working to address through research partnerships with numerous institutions.

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 an incredibly 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 improve the experiences that we offer 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 often poorly) manufactured wood products from overseas. Our competitors are smart and innovative.

We will strive to remain competitive by sticking to our principles: offering exceptional outdoor experiences at a forest where sustainable forest management and the protection of ecological integrity are the priority, while manufacturing excellent hardwood products at our sawmills by implementing advanced technology, smart processing techniques, and engaging well-trained staff.

Opportunity: We will become bigger and better.

The management team at Haliburton Forest has a very clear mandate: get better at everything that we do, and responsibly grow the business over time. This mandate extends to every aspect of the operation, from snowmobiling and sawmilling to dogsledding and logging. We expect to continue growing and improving 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, we 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.

 

More Information

The managers and staff at Haliburton Forest are big believers in transparency, both inside and outside the company. More information about our operations is available throughout our website. 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.