Couchiching Conservancy:
Passport to nature proves passport to success

In 1993, a handful of visionaries set out to protect some of the unique landscapes around Ontario’s Lake Couchiching. Today, the Couchinching Conservancy has 48 properties including alvars, shield barrens, wetlands, grasslands, upland forests and rivers complexes.
 
But nine staff and contractors are not enough to steward those 13,000 acres. That’s where Passport to Nature comes in. In 2015, the conservancy launched a series of free guided hikes and activities throughout the year designed to introduce more community members to the extraordinary habitat it has protected. The roster includes events for kids, millennials and new Canadians and attracts hundreds of people annually.
 
Reaching new people this way expands the organization’s supporter base. Today, more than 1,300 supporters and volunteers contribute 7,500+ hours each year. A “pyramid of engagement” approach provides a pathway for volunteers to get more deeply involved, while database software helps the conservancy track the success of its efforts.
 
Meanwhile, Couchiching Conservancy raises funds by selling advertising in the “passport,” a 56-page booklet describing each event. In 2018, it brought in more than $20,000.
 
The hugely successful passport model has now been adopted by nearly a dozen nature organizations across the country, from B.C. to New Brunswick.