Hawk Cliff Woods: Expanding Nature’s Horizons

Aerial photo of Hawk Cliff WoodsSeptember 23, 2023, Port Stanley, Ontario – Thames Talbot Land Trust and Long Point Basin Land Trust announced the expansion of Hawk Cliff Woods, a nature reserve on the shores of Lake Erie in Elgin County. This new 30-hectare project is a unique opportunity to expand the natural area, adding 30% more habitat through the creation and restoration of meadows.

The project is the vision of Cheryl Barendregt whose family has lived and thrived on the land since the 1950’s. The farm was the family’s livelihood and the woods their classroom. Cheryl’s grandchildren now explore the woods and meadows, finding salamanders, admiring butterflies, and listening to bird song. The thrill of spending the day in nature with “Mima” is a highlight of the visit to her house. Cheryl’s enthusiasm for nature is evident to all who share a walk in the woods with her. Cheryl first collaborated with Thames Talbot Land Trust in 2016 to protect the 93-hectare block of mostly wooded ravines. This new project will see portions of the land restored to a vibrant and diverse natural habitat, complementing the existing woodland and meadow habitats, and completing the original vision of protecting and restoring the entirety of Hawk Cliff Woods.

Hawk Cliff Woods is home to a wide diversity of species including 15 species at risk, several of which will benefit from the creation of additional habitat. Grasslands are some of the most endangered habitat types in Canada. This project will create over 25 hectares of new grasslands, which will provide a wide array of benefits to species, such as Monarch, Brown Myotis, and Bobolink, that rely on large blocks of this rare habitat. In addition, the restoration project will provide services to the local community such as carbon sequestration, pollinator habitat, and recreational opportunities.
Nature lovers from far and wide have been visiting Hawk Cliff and vicinity for generations as a premier destination for viewing fall raptor, songbird, and Monarch migrations. The annual Hawk Cliff Woods Migration Weekend, running for more than 40 years, is a public event that celebrates the fall migration and typically sees over 300 visitors. The nature reserve also boasts two public trails and a community garden, which provide different ways to connect with nature year-round. Additional trails and community opportunities will be added on the new lands.

To complete the protection of these ecologically significant lands, TTLT and LPBLT need to raise $273,000 to reach their $2 million campaign goal. The funds will support the protection, restoration and long-term care of the lands ensuring wildlife have a permanent home at Hawk Cliff Woods. Donations to the campaign can be made here.

This project is made possible by the Government of Canada through the Nature Smart Climate Solutions Fund and Habitat Stewardship Program, and by the Government of Ontario through the Greenlands Conservation Partnership Program and Species At Risk Stewardship Program, and by the Echo Foundation. A portion of this project was donated to Thames Talbot Land Trust under the Government of Canada’s Ecological Gifts Program. This program provides enhanced tax incentives for individuals or corporations who donate ecologically significant land.

Permanent protection of the Hawk Cliff Woods expansion site by Thames Talbot Land Trust and Long Point Basin Land Trust will ensure these natural features and wildlife are protected forever. In the face of biodiversity loss and climate change we are working together to find nature-based solutions for our communities. Projects like these ensure a greener future for nature and people to thrive.


“Canada—and Ontario—matter in the global fight to conserve and protect biodiversity. Our country is home to 24 percent of the world’s wetlands, 25 percent of temperate rainforest areas, and 28 percent of remaining boreal forests. These ecosystems are globally significant as they absorb carbon, mitigate against the impacts of climate change, and protect biodiversity. Since Canada welcomed the world to Montréal for COP15, where the ambitious Global Biodiversity Framework was signed, there is a global consensus that we must buckle down to protect our most ecologically sensitive land and water. Ontario’s contribution is vital if we are to conserve, restore, and enhance these life-giving ecosystems and increase their resilience.” – The Honourable Steven Guilbeault, Minister of Environment and Climate Change

“By adding and restoring grasslands in the Hawk Cliff Woods nature reserve on the shores of Lake Erie in Elgin County, we’re providing species at risk such as the Monarch butterfly and birds like the Bobolink with vital habitat. I’m proud of the work we’ve done alongside the Thames Talbot Land Trust and land donor Cheryl Barendregt to preserve this ecologically important area to enjoy for generations to come.” – David Piccini, Minister of the Environment, Conservation and Parks

“My vision is that first and foremost, the species that are living here are protected. Secondly, would be that it's an educational center where people can come and learn about what's here. My hope is that it will become someplace that people can come and visit, and maybe see what a salamander looks like, or an Acadian flycatcher, or visit the gullies and run around and say that this is really worth saving.” – Cheryl Barendregt, land donor.

“Southwestern Ontario contains some of Canada’s highest biodiversity levels yet is one of the least protected areas in the country. Passionate advocates like Cheryl Barendregt are creating a greener future for wildlife and their local community. Hawk Cliff Woods is a very special place and we are thrilled to play a role in protecting it for all to experience the natural beauty of the deep ravines, towering trees, and colourful meadows.” – Daria Koscinski, Executive Director of Thames Talbot Land Trust.


  • Hawk Cliff Woods is a nationally recognized Protected Area, counting towards Canada’s goal of protecting 30% of terrestrial lands and waters by 2030
  • Hawk Cliff Woods is within the Carolinian Zone, which has the highest biodiversity in Canada, but has less than 1% of its land area under protection and some of the lowest natural cover in Canada.
  • Hawk Cliff Woods is along the Lake Erie shoreline, a prime migration pathway for birds and Monarch butterflies, and is home to at least 15 species at risk.


Thames Talbot Land Trust is a registered Canadian charity with a mission to protect, conserve, and restore nature within Elgin, Middlesex, Oxford and Perth counties, contributing to a stable climate, human wellbeing, and healthy habitats for all species. Our vision is to create a network of permanently protected areas that are rich in biodiversity, sustain life and nourish a sense of wonder and inspiration for all people.

The Long Point Basin Land Trust is a Canadian registered charitable organization with a mission to protect the rich biodiversity and habitats of the Long Point Basin area located in the Carolinian region, an area with some of the highest biodiversity in plants and animals in Canada. This is accomplished through land ownership, land management, and nature stewardship on properties owned by the Land Trust, partner organizations, and private land stewards. We work together to restore functioning habitats and ecosystems within our Reserves through ongoing stewardship programs and outreach and volunteer activities.

Over $11.7M in funding will be provided from Environment and Climate Change Canada’s (ECCC)’s Nature Smart Climate Solutions Fund (NSCSF) to Ontario Land Trust Alliance and its partners to support nature-based projects that promote carbon storage and capture while providing important habitat for species at risk and/or species of cultural and local importance. This is part of the $1.4 billion that Canada has invested in the Nature Smart Climate Solutions Fund. These funds will be matched from other sources including individual donations and foundation support, as well as other levels of government.

The Greenlands Conservation Partnership helps conserve ecologically important natural areas and protect wetlands, grasslands and forests that help mitigate the effects of climate change. Through the Greenlands Conservation Partnership, a total of $38 million has been invested to date by the Ontario government. Additional match funds are raised from other sources, such as individual donations and foundation support through the Nature Conservancy of Canada and the Ontario Land Trust Alliance, and other levels of government.

The Ontario Species at Risk Stewardship Program promotes strong environmental stewardship by providing funding for species at risk protection, recovery and research projects by individuals, communities and groups across the province. In 2023-24, the Species at Risk Stewardship Program is supporting the Ontario Land Trust Alliance’s Conserving Species at Risk Program to enhance the capacity for land trusts to protect and recover species at risk in Ontario. Activities undertaken through this program includes the restoration of grasslands in Hawk Cliff Woods.

To learn more about the Ecological Gifts Program, please visit http://www.ec.gc.ca/pde-egp/.


Daria Koscinski
[email protected]