Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)




John C. Weaver


Wilderness has been touted as an integral part of Canadian culture. But, from 1927 to 1987, Ontario wilderness conservationists, failed to attract wide popular support. They exerted an influence on provincial park policy, far beyond the strength of their small numbers. In several campaigns, conservationists convinced politicians and civil servants to adopt more protectionist park policies. This record was the result of individual efforts, organization and perseverance. Conservationist lobbying tactics -- from quiet diplomacy before 1987, to mass-media manipulation thereafter -- reflect the changing Ontario political culture. By the early 1970s, they had fostered a more broadly-based preservation movement.

Conservationists promoted different ideas of wilderness. Both the Ontario Department of Lands and Forests, and the Canadian Quetico-Superior Committee (1949) --- reorganized as the Quetico Foundation (1954) -- embraced multiple use. If It enabled the harmonization of natural resource extraction with the protection of scenic and recreational values, by no-cut shoreline reserves along canoe routes. The Federation of Ontario Naturalists (1931) advocated the conservation of wilderness for its own sake. Motivated by scientific and aesthetic appreciation, the naturalists successfully lobbied,for publicly-owned, rigidly controlled nature reserves. Environmental awareness in the 1980s fed a resurgence and refinement of the ecological wilderness concept. This awakening spawned a new pressure group -- the Algonquin Wildlands League (AWL, 1988). It championed a wilderness free of interference with ecological processes, especially resource extraction and recreational overuse.

The AWL built Ontario's modern wilderness preservation movement. By publicizing its wilderness philosophy, the league strengthened the Parks Branch in departmental struggles over provincially-owned wildlands. The AWL persuaded the government to adopt more protectionist policies for Algonquin, Lake Superior and Killarney parks. Preservationist victories included a ban on logging in Quetico Park (1971), and the reclassification of both Quetico and Killarney as primitive parks (1973). After 1973, both preservationists and civil servants planned a system of provincial wilderness parks.

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