The Nature Conservancy of Canada has purchased the Powder Islands off Pays Plat, Ontario on the North Shore of Lake Superior (often referred to as the Anguros Islands by locals). This is the latest of several purchases in western Lake Superior announced by the Conservancy, which procures funds through private donations and often works in cooperation with other organizations, like the Thunder Bay Field Naturalists and the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry. The TD Bank Forests initiative contributed funds for purchase of the Powder Islands, which are named for the fact that they contained a facility for storing powder used in blasting for construction of the adjacent mainland railway. The objective of Nature Conservancy purchases is preservation of a representative cross-section of western Lake Superior ecosystems.
While many of their objectives align, it is important to note that the Nature Conservancy of Canada is not the Lake Superior National Marine Conservation Area, which is an entirely separate Canadian federal entity operating under Parks Canada. The Powder Islands are located within the boundaries of the Lake Superior Marine Conservation Area.
The Powder Islands are located approximately 1.5 km. south of the community of Pays Plat and the Conservancy notes that Pays Plat First Nation played a key role as purchase of the islands moved forward and that the band will also play a key role in their preservation. The islands are an important cultural site for band members.
The Nature Conservancy notes the following characteristics for the islands:
The Powder Islands consist of two large islands: Anguros Island (299 acres) and a smaller unnamed island located to the west (100 acres). These islands are almost completely dominated by Lake Superior coastal forests.
Characteristic forest types include dense coniferous forests of white spruce, jack pine and balsam fir, and mixed forests with spruce, fir, poplar and white birch. The islands support many other habitat features including steep cliffs, cobble beaches, small inland lakes and Great Lakes coastal wetlands.
Rare species that have been documented include bald eagle and a small blue wildflower called Franklin’s scorpion-weed. The shallow waters around these islands provide spawning habitat for lake trout and lake whitefish, and stop-over habitat for migrating waterfowl.
Between the Nature Conservancy, the Thunder Bay Field Naturalists and other organizations, lands purchased on western Lake Superior for conservation include a large piece of shoreline property in the Municipality of Neebing, Caribou Island in eastern Thunder Bay near Amethyst Harbour, purchased with support from the Paterson family, shoreline around Gapens Pool, an important coaster brook trout spawning area in the Nipigon River, lands at the east side of the Nipigon River mouth, Hare Island near the tip of Thunder Cape, Fork Bay just east of Silver Islet, Paradise Island and nearby Bowman Island on the south side of St. Ignace Island in the Nipigon Bay area, Wilson Island off Rossport, and a large piece of Lake Superior shorline land abutting the municipality of Terrace Bay.