Ganaraska Forest
- Conservation History -

Ganaraska History
V.B. Blake
Pioneer Historian
Ardfree of Northumberland
E. J. Zavitz
Chief of Reforestation
A.H. Richardson
Dr. R.C. Wallace
"Wallace of Queen's"
G.M. Wrong
History Prof./Author
Lois James
hampion of the Rouge
Trees: Guardians of Walker Road
Nuclear Waste: PHAI












































































































































Dr. R. C. Wallace - (D
ichotomies atomic age and conservation)

Dr. Robert Charles Wallace

"He showed a keen insight into the problems facing this and other countries in post-war days and in his address on "Planning for Canada" laid down important principles for the better development, in the democratic way, not only of natural resources but also of the education and culture of the Canadian people." 


J. E. Hawley, Queen's University, Kingston


 * * * * * 


Dr. R.C. Wallace was a Scots-Canadian geologist and one of Canada's foremost educators and highly esteemed university professors - with about 20 honorary degrees from universities in several countries.


Wallace moved to Canada in 1912 to take a position as the first head of the Department of Geology and Mineralogy at the University of Manitoba.  He became renowned for his vast knowledge of rocks and minerals in a position he held for nearly sixteen years.


D. Wallace also became the Commissioner of Mines for Northern Manitoba in 1927 supervising an area of some 178,000 square miles. Much of the credit for the development of the Flin Flon deposits went to Wallace for his advice which led to the building of the railway there. In 1928, his work entitled Copper-Zinc and Gold Mineralization in Manitoba was published.

During his time in Alberta, Wallace continued with his passion for field geology and resource prospecting contributing much to the science of mineralogy and geology. He helped unearth the vast and profitable pitchblende deposits in the far north region of Alberta.

From 1928 to 1936 he remained at the University of Alberta where his pioneering spirit made him one of the first to realize the value of the great pitchblende deposits in the northern part of the province.

Thursday, March 25, 1943

The Empire Club of Canada (Toronto, Canada)

In 1941, Dr. Wallace became the President of the Royal Society of Canada.

Wallace was also highly regarded nationally (and internationally) as an extremely effective and efficient academic administrator including:

  • First Head of the Geology and Mineralogy Dept. - University of Manitoba (1912-1928)

  • President of the University of Alberta (1928-1936)

  • Principal and Chancellor of Queens University,  Kingston, Ontario  (1936–1951)
    the first scientist to ever hold the position)

  • First Canadian member - Board of Trustees of the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching

In 1941, Robert Charles Wallace was appointed by Canadian Government in to head up special sub-committee on the Conservation and Development of Natural Resources in Canada - which led to the establishment of Ganaraska Forest.

The Ganaraska project took a much broader approach to conservation than the prevailing soil restoration or reforestation model of the time. The Ganaraska Watershed report published in 1944 was a survey of all resources leading to multiple purpose rehabilitation in the watershed.  In essence, it was the first model of a modern day greenbelt plan which eventually lead to the establishment of the world's largest greenbelt - of which Ganaraska Forest is part. 

In 1945, along with the Right Hon. Vincent Massey, Dr. Wallace was one of only three Canadians chosen to represent Canada at the United Nations Conference in London for the establishment of an educational and cultural organization - UNESCO.

From 1951 to 1955, Dr. Wallace was head of the Arctic Institute of North America.

* * * * * 

Ganaraska - the first conservation model (1942)

By the late 1800's, Southern Ontario was one of the few areas in Canada that was so densely settled and its resources so unwisely exploited that conditions matched those that inspired the rise of the conservation movement south of the border.

Appointed by the Federal Government, Dr. R.C. Wallace influenced the Ganaraska Forest project during WW 2 which would make a significant impact on conservation in Canada.

In 1942,the Ganaraska Watershed was chosen to demonstrate the benefits of conservation in Ontario and as an example of conservation study for all of Canada.

The 103-square mile [265-square kilometres] watershed of the Ganaraska River, which enters Lake Ontario at Port Hope, was selected for the pilot survey.

During World War II, Dr. Wallace helped spearhead a new and comprehensive approach to conservation in Canada. Appointed by the Government of Canada, in 1942 Dr. Wallace headed up a special sub-committee on the Conservation and Development of Natural Resources.  His experience and advisory work with the Federal Committee on Reconstruction was well used in the expanding development of the natural resources of the country and he was directed to consider and recommend the policy and programme appropriate to the most effective conservation and maximum future development of the natural resources in the Dominion of Canada. 

In the Ganaraska region, Dr. Wallace showed a special sensitivity to good conservation practices which extended from the northern reaches of the watershed to the southern edge of the Town of Port Hope where Eldorado Uranium Refinery was located. Wallace could not ignore the local flooding events and the potential threat to the world's largest uranium refinery located at the lowest elevation of the catchment basin. At the same time of the Ganaraska study (1942), Eldorado was acquired by the Canadian Government and made into a crown corporation. Dr. Wallace was one of the few men knowledgeable in the science of uranium -- a field at the time the field was still in its infancy.

The unanswered question remains even today - would the Ganaraska project been selected as the test survey area in middle of a world war abroad - without the Eldorado influence which was very much shrouded in secrecy?

For the first conservation model in Canada, Ontario had to look south of the border in two places, The Muskingum Watershed Conservancy District in Ohio and the area of the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA). Both areas were seen as excellent models for the development of watershed management programs in  Canada.  


Dr. Wallace spent two weeks touring the TVA in 1942 and was deeply impressed by how the federal authority there had taken the responsibility "of bringing back a large watershed to productive life" and saw in it as a model for planning and development in Canada.

 * * * * * 

 "A Report on the Ganaraska Watershed", 1944

Dr. R.C. Wallace wrote the Introduction of "A Report on the Ganaraska Watershed", 1944. Wallace took a much broader approach to conservation than the prevailing soil restoration or reforestation model of the time. It was a survey of all resources leading to multiple purpose rehabilitation -- in essence the first model of a modern day greenbelt plan. 

The Ganaraska Survey was conducted in the summer of 1942, and the report published in 1943. The survey resulted in a new comprehensive approach to conservation and covered extended to soils, climate, vegetation, forestry, plant diseases, entomology, wildlife, water flow and utilization, and the physical and economic aspects of agriculture.

The Ganaraska Watershed (1944) was grounded in history because it opened with a chapter on the history of the area compiled by Historian and local resident, V.B. Blake. The inclusion of the historical introduction was considered controversial at first because history was considered to have little to do with conservation.

More than any other man, Dr. Wallace established a very important precedent which ensured the Ganaraska Watershed Report (and future conservation reports) would be "grounded in history".

The Ganaraska Report (1943):
Grounded in History

"The Ganaraska Report opened with a chapter on the history of the area. It presence was controversial because history was considered by many technical men to have little if anything to do with conservation. This report established that human heritage would be considered a resource from which lessons would be learned and applied, and that it would be included in the mandate of conservation authorities...

Although the small Ganaraska watershed was ideally suited for the survey, it was equally rich in historical interest extending back 150 years. The settlement at the mouth of the Ganaraska River, known first as Smith's Creek, for a short time as Toronto, and later as Port Hope, had its beginning in the 1790s, at the same time as Lieutenant-Governor Simcoe was establishing the Town of York, now Toronto.

When it was decided to print the Ganaraska report (The Ganaraska Report (1943), a meeting was called in Toronto of those responsible for the promotion of the survey to decide the general format and to discuss abridgements or additions. Dr. R.C. Wallace, principal and vice-chancellor of Queen's University was in the chair.

After some discussion on the historical section as to its length, contents, and whether or not it was germane to the survey, Dr. Wallace asked for a show of hands. A few were in favour of reducing it considerably but the majority voted that the whole section should be deleted; they considered history had little relation to the technical aspects of conservation.

Then, as chairman, Dr. Wallace took the floor and with diplomacy and tact, said he did not agree; on the contrary, he said, he considered the section on history the most interesting in the report. It would, he said, go far to making the report more acceptable to a wide circle of readers. He then ruled that the section should be left in and any abridgement be left to Dr. Marsh and me. With this excellent support from an eminent educator, it was evident that here was an open sesame to promote and encourage historical projects in the programmes of the authorities, if they should be formed..."

Greening Our Watersheds - Revitalization Strategies 2002 Ch. 5 p.75
Conservation - Chapter 5, 75 (2000)
The Toronto and Region Conservation Authority


Wallace's view was that he "considered the section on history the most interesting in the report. It would he said, go far to making the report more acceptable to a wide circle of readers". It had great educational value and was prepared in such a way so as to be understood by the general public.


The historical introduction was especially seen as an important backdrop to the varied technical recommendations within the report – without which the recommendations could have been a tough sell to the general public.

"Experience has shown that this fresh (historical) approach is of great interest to a large section of the public, and especially to the inhabitants of the region dealt with in the reports…”

A.H. Richardson, Conservation Authorities in Southern Ontario Toronto: Department of Planning and Development, (1953), 17

The History section of the report was also viewed as:

"the sugar coated pill, which it was hoped, would stimulate the interest of the reader and entice him to read the report in full." 

A.H. Richardson, Conservation by the People: The History of the Conservation Movement in Ontario to 1970, (1974), p. 103

Certainly. the inclusion of the history section in the Ganaraska report and in subsequent conservation reports of other watersheds which followed it (authored by V.B. Blake) was a major contributing factor to the success of the conservation movement -- first spawned in the Ganaraska watershed.

"Owing to the linkage between heritage and conservation, Conservation Authorities have a significant role to play in both areas. Conservation reports are a goldmine of information..."

James H. Marsh,  Conservation Chap. 5 p.75
The Toronto and Region Conservation Authority, 2000



The Ganaraska report would become the model for future conservation studies:

"While primarily a study in land use with plans for the rehabilitation of this particular watershed during the post-war period, the Ganaraska Report would become the model for future conservation studies throughout the Province of Ontario."

John C. Carter, Ontario Conservation Authorities:
Their Heritage Resources and Museums,
Ontario History
/Volume XCIV, No. 1, Spring 2002

* * * * * 


Extract from


Thursday, March 25, 1943

The Empire Club of Canada (Toronto, Canada)


Introduction of Guest Speaker: 


"Robert Charles Wallace was born on the "Mainland" Island of the Orkney group and, after being soundly tutored in the old classical tradition, went on to Edinburgh University, where he specialized in the sciences and graduated with distinction in Geology and Mathematics, collecting on the way out an 1857 Exhibition Scholarship which took him to Gottingen, Germany, where he gathered in the Ph.D. degree.


In 1910 he came to Canada to head up the newly created Department of Geology at the University of Manitoba, where, for the next eighteen years he served well his university and found time, at the request of the Province, to act as Commissioner of Northern Manitoba, in which office he was charged with the especial duty of examining into and reporting upon the economic possibilities of the country. By canoe and afoot, with pack and tump-line, he explored the vast district north of "The 53rd", living on beans and bacon, mingling with the pioneer settlers and the prospectors, and gaining such well-informed knowledge of the land and its wealth of natural resources, that, when he returned to Winnipeg and made his report, imagination was stirred and capital immediately started flowing into the territory.

He became Commissioner of Mines in 1927 but the following year, on a call from the University of Alberta, he returned to more strictly academic work, becoming President of that seat of learning.


From 1928 to 1936 he remained at the University of Alberta where his pioneering spirit made him one of the first to realize the value of the great pitchblende deposits in the northern part of the province and one of the first to suggest the development of the now widely known tar deposits about Fort McMurray.


Dr. Wallace (Guest Speaker) :


"... Fifty per cent of the land area of our provinces of Canada is under forest. Some little time ago the Province of Ontario, in association with the Dominion Government, made a study of a small area of the Ganaraska River Watershed. The river flows through Port Hope into Lake Ontario, and the area was a white pine area and a very valuable one. Now in its upper reaches, in the sandy moraine high up in the headwaters, it has been devastated by spring freshets. The sand is moving and covering over territory which had been transformed into agricultural land after the forests were logged. The whole picture is a very sad one indeed. The loss of agricultural soil through the devastation of a country which should have remained as forest is a picture that can be duplicated in your own experience in very many parts of all the provinces in Canada.


That survey was made in order to find out what the technique would be, what the type of men would be that would be needed, how they should be trained, what construction work should be established in order that territory such as this, taken as a type, might come back again into the best use to which it can be put. Part of it will be in reforestation, part of it will be in stabilizing the land by the right kind of crop, part in contour ploughing. This will give some kind of criterion which can be used for a great number of areas in Canada.


We cannot blame our forefathers. I have read into the history of that area. It was an amazing story of initiative in the building of community life in those early days. They did not see the picture, naturally, as we see it now. They had not the knowledge we have now, and there is no blame attached to them. We are facing now a practical situation where if we do not act, more and more of our valuable land will be useless and less and less of the land that can supply good forest material will not be available for the purpose for which it should be used.


Fortunately, there are farmers who are already busy planting white pine and Scotch fir in those areas. They are being assisted in part by the Government in doing so. The programme is a large one and of great importance and will undoubtedly employ, if correctly and soundly administered a great number of men very profitably."

* * * * * 


Throughout his life, R.C. Wallace seemed to occupy the middle ground -- between science and his deep religious faith:


“What does matter is that the human mind is not confined
to the things that today are and tomorrow are gone.
What does matter is that the sense of the eternal informs

our doing and our thinking, that the horizon does not limit
our vision, that our mind’s eye can pierce beyond the things
of sense into the infinity of time and of space, that we rest in

the assurance that underneath are the everlasting arms.”


R. C. Wallace, 1955
 “As I look back-some random thoughts”.
Queen’s Quarterly, Vol. 61, pp. 490-7


"Wallace's Walk" in the Ganaraska Forest area would be a fitting reminder of the man and his legacy.




Rev. 2016

M. Martin