Volunteer of the Month: Mac Kirk (February 2023)

February 28, 2023

This month we honour the late Mac Kirk as volunteer of the month. 

Mac was a dedicated conservationist who made a significant impact on the preservation of wild nature in Grey-Bruce Counties. His conservation work was delayed by service in WW II.  But shortly after the war, he began his career as a zone forester for the Lindsay District with the Department of Lands and Forests in 1946. In 1957, Mac joined the new Conservation Authorities Branch of the Ministry of Lands and Forests as a Resources Manager for the North Grey Region and Sauble Valley Conservation Authorities in Owen Sound. During his 16 years in this position, Mac secured tens of thousands of acres of valuable escarpment lands at over 30 properties in Grey and Bruce through innovative use of options with willing landowners and grants from private donor agencies. Through organizations such as the Federation of Ontario Naturalists and the Nature Conservancy of Canada, Mac played a key role in preserving many other significant natural areas. He was instrumental in the campaign to save Dorcas Bay on the Bruce Peninsula and the establishment of the Bruce Peninsula National Park, as well as the protection of areas like Petrel Point fen, Long Swamp (now named the Malcolm Kirk Nature Preserve in his honour), and Walker Woods. 
Mac was on EBC's first board with Bob Barnett as chair and his friend Terk Bayley as Vice Chair. Mac served as Bob's mentor and EBC board member until his death. His wife, Joan, was an active assistant providing accommodation and meals for Bob in Thornbury. Mac's son, Donald, was a senior biologist with MNR for many years and encouraged us to protect Zinkan Cove on the Huron shore where we now have about 1500 acres protected in 5 nature reserves and are about to close another very soon.

After retiring from the Ministry of Environment in Toronto, Mac and his wife Joan moved to Thornbury and he began a new career in environmental consulting, biological inventories, landscaping, and environmental activism. Through his involvement with the Senior League, the Grey Association for Better Planning, and Escarpment Biosphere Conservancy, Mac became one of the strongest voices for conservation in the area and worked tirelessly to protect important natural areas. Mac received the Award for Good Citizenship from the Province of Ontario, the W.W. Gunn Conservation Trophy from the Federation of Ontario Naturalists, and Lifetime Memberships from both the Federation of Ontario Naturalists and the Owen Sound Field Naturalists. The people of Grey and Bruce Counties owe much to Mac Kirk, whose devotion to conservation has led to the preservation of pristine woodlands, swamps, headwater regions for major rivers, gorges, fens, lakes, islands, waterfalls, bluffs, and caves. Thanks to his efforts, Grey and Bruce attract thousands of nature lovers each year and his legacy continues to inspire all of us at EBC and future generations of conservationists.

It is easy to look at a cathedral here or the colosseum in Rome and be awed by the work of their builders. Mac Kirk’s efforts in preserving the most beautiful parts of Grey and Bruce took as much forethought and effort as that of the builders and provides an example we should all give thought to and be grateful for. Mac’s life made a difference for all of us and it is right to bring him back to mind.