Travel And Tour World – What exactly inspires the concept of Haliburton Forest?
Tegan Legge: As we move towards the future, sustainability continues to be a core value for Haliburton Forest’s identity. As a leader in sustainability, it is our responsibility to not just share our knowledge and processes with others, but to seek out others we can continue to learn from. Often, our managers will travel to see other operations first-hand to get more ideas on how to improve our own.
Likewise, we openly invite others for familiarization and industry tours, as we are proud of what we have accomplished.
Sharing our knowledge and research, being a FSC-certified sustainable forest, and showing everyone how incredible our forest is, will never get old. Our legacy is in our steadfast commitment to the sustainable multi-use forest we call home.
Travel And Tour World: Please list your sustainability practices that enabled you to be nominated for sustainable tourism award that is part of Ontario Tourism Awards of Excellence 2018.
How do you encourage visitors to follow a sustainable approach during their time spent at the wildlife reserve and forest?
Tegan Legge: We were the first forest in Canada to achieve Certification as a Sustainable Forest by the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC), an international body with a membership that includes organizations such as The Sierra Club, Greenpeace, the World Wildlife Fund, Nature Conservancy etc.
This was obtained in 1998. We have recertified every year since. Our FSC forest management certification is based on our forest being managed in a way that preserves the natural ecosystem and benefits the lives of local people and workers, all while ensuring it sustains economical viability.
Our company operates as two closely integrated divisions that compliment one another:
The Forest Products Division includes the Sawmill, Wood Shop, Paddle Shop, Eco-Log Homes, Haliburton Forest Biochar, and Forest Management businesses producing split firewood, lumber, log cabins and finished furniture.
The Tourism & Recreation Division includes the Ecotourism and Leases & Land Use businesses. These businesses offer Canopy Tours, dogsledding, snowmobiling and the Wolf Centre to long-term hunt clubs and leased campsites.
Research & Education is not a business venture in the official sense, but it is a big part of what we do. We have deep research partnerships with the University of Toronto and many other institutions.
Conservation and sustainable use of natural resources is a key factor in all ventures Haliburton Forest pursues.
One of many ways we engage visitors is through experiential education. Our Canopy Tour is a prime example of this. The four-hour tour includes hiking, canoeing and a suspended boardwalk through the canopy of an old growth white pine stand that is just over half a kilometer long.
Because it is a participatory type of learning, guests connect to the environment and share what they have learned long after the tour is over.
Travel And Tour World: Can you share about some of your recent ecosystem-based projects? How do you encourage education programs?
Tegan Legge: There are so many different projects happening at Haliburton Forest it is hard to pick one so I will give a few examples with quick descriptions:
Hocking College, Ohio, USA – Has been visiting Haliburton Forest for over thirty years. They conduct research based on our fisheries (fish populations), small mammal populations and put together a report for us year after year.
University of Toronto, Ontario, Canada – Has a summer field course campus onsite at Haliburton Forest where ongoing research is conducted related to pollinators, salamanders, the cut offs from trees left at harvesting sites, etc
University of Freiburg, Germany – Has an ongoing project where sensors are attached to a variety of trees that measure the growth of the tree every 5 seconds.
Most recently we created a sub company called Haliburton Forest Biochar where we are experimenting with low quality wood to create high quality biochar for replacing things such as fertilize in a sustainable way.
We have designated areas within the forest that will never be touched by Forestry such as a Moose calving reserve.
Travel And Tour World – Kindly share with us your growth objectives for the upcoming period – your biggest focus.
Tegan Legge: An area of growth that we are seeking is having more environmental related college and university field courses hosted onsite. We hope to provide the largest outdoor classroom where students can immerse themselves in a unique setting and learn that something typically deemed unsustainable such as forestry can actually be sustainable and compliment tourism, learning and growth opportunities.
Students would have the opportunity to:
- Learn about our practices and see the forest through our registered foresters eyes.
- See tree to product
- Conduct research that not only would benefit their schooling but also help us with our forest management and growth plans.
- They would also take part in more recreational pursuits: rock climbing, high ropes challenge course, canopy tour, Wolf Centre, guided hikes, etc.
- By growing this sector we hope to mold the youth/young adults of our future to continue to preserve our forests for future generations.
Travel And Tour World – What are the top popular tourist activities and attractions at Haliburton?
The top tourist activities here include:
Hiking, Biking, Trail Running
Hershe the Moose
Travel And Tour World – Tell us something interesting about your Wolf Centre and observatory.
Tegan Legge: The tour also includes a pass to our Wolf Centre. The centre is a museum-style, educational facility built alongside a 15-acre enclosure, in which a pack of 9 unsocialized wolves live. After learning about forests and lakes while on the Canopy Tour, guests then have the opportunity to view and learn about local animal species and how they play a key role in the ecosystems they live within.
This holistic tour schedule promotes approaching conservation in both a big-picture and issue-by-issue manner. By getting involved and experiencing nature first-hand in all its glory, guests leave with heightened appreciation for, and desire to protect natural resources.
Travel And Tour World – How can local communities engage in making Haliburton more environment-friendly?
Tegan Legge: This is an interesting question since we live in such a green expanse of land already. Issues, I guess to make Haliburton greener would be reducing waste, buying locally, creating available and reliable public transportation. We don’t really have any large industrial type businesses, etc but we all kind of live the forest life whether at Haliburton Forest or within our community.
Travel And Tour World – What are the challenges to growth?
Tegan Legge: The largest challenge to growth is capacity. We have to ask ourselves as a company everyday how many people can we put through tours, have staying onsite, hiking our trails and others, in order to not negatively impact our forest, ecosystems and animals within and to remain the sustainable forest that we are. We also pride ourselves on offering our clients that authentic Canadian experience where they are not being overrun by other tourists.
They should have the feeling that they are in forest surrounded by trees, 100 lakes, 400 wetlands and not by other people.