A Foundation in Conservation
On March 23, 1928, outdoors enthusiasts concerned for the future of Ontario’s fish and wildlife formed the Ontario Federation of Anglers. This new Federation consisted of ten community-based outdoors groups that aligned with the Toronto Anglers Association, which itself was just three years old, to form a grassroots alliance of conservationists working for better stewardship of Ontario’s natural resources.
Immediately, the newly-formed Federation took on some of the initiatives that its founding clubs had begun, including a government petition to undertake a survey of Ontario’s game fish. A Special Fish Committee was duly appointed and the findings were presented in 1931. Following that important study, the Federation advocated for a similar survey of provincial game, which was completed in 1933. The Federation’s recommendations to these and other committees helped forge a constructive relationship with all levels of government that continues to this day.
In 1947, several hunting organizations joined forces with the Federation to become the Ontario Federation of Anglers and Hunters Incorporated (OFAH). Since that time, an ever-increasing number of outdoor enthusiasts recognized the value of the conservation organization, and threw their support behind the OFAH.
As the Federation grew, so did the need for a permanent home. Many possible cities were considered until philanthropist and OFAH Life Member, David Wilson, donated several acres of property bordering the Otonabee River in Peterborough to the Federation. Construction began and, in 1993, the OFAH/Ontario Conservation Centre was proudly unveiled. Original plans included both a head office and a heritage museum; however, it wasn’t until 2010 that the Federation finally had the opportunity to open the OFAH/Mario Cortellucci Hunting & Fishing Heritage Centre, named for its generous benefactor who contributed more than two million dollars to the project.
Communicating our conservation message has always been important to the Federation. In the 1970s, the OFAH launched Angler & Hunter magazine; then in 1992, moved to inserting OFAH news into a member’s only section of Ontario OUT of DOORS (OOD) magazine, now in its 51st year of publication. In 2008, the OFAH purchased OOD from Roger’s Publishing and in 2017, amalgamated the member’s only section into the full body of the magazine to further highlight the OFAH commitment to conservation and its ongoing efforts to protect our fishing, hunting, and trapping traditions.
Today, OOD is supported by a digital version accessible through the OOD app. The OFAH award-winning television program, Angler & Hunter Television, in its 25th season, continues to inform and educate; and our corporate social media reach exceeds millions on an annual basis.
Since inception, the OFAH has been the backbone of Ontario’s fish and wildlife conservation work. OFAH leadership on issues such as invasive species, anti-poaching, habitat restoration, fish stocking and hunter education are admired and sought after internationally by conservation allies. In particular, the OFAH has a worldwide conservation reputation for spearheading three historic conservation achievements — the restoration of Ontario’s wild turkeys, elk and Atlantic Salmon.
OFAH conservation work benefits many species, not just game species. Over the years, the OFAH has invested millions of dollars into fish and wildlife research and restoration projects for wetlands and rivers, and a wide variety of projects also benefit non-game species, such as trumpeter swans, spotted turtles, barn owls, and peregrine falcons, just to name a few. Ontario’s Great Lakes and inland fisheries are also better thanks to the OFAH advocacy that has successfully lobbied for the control of invasive species, such as Asian Carps and Sea Lamprey.
Support for heritage traditions of Ontario’s anglers and hunters, who today number over two million, have always been central to the OFAH mandate. The Federation was instrumental in bringing Sunday gun hunting opportunities to more than 180 municipalities in Southern Ontario. The OFAH was the lead in a campaign to repeal the ineffective long gun registry in 2012 and, to this date, continues to advocate for the rights of law-abiding firearms owners. The OFAH has been relentless in the fight to bring back the spring bear hunt, and continues to work with the government to see full reinstatement as it was prior to the cancellation in 1999.
What began as a small group of concerned anglers in the 1920s has grown into the largest fishing, hunting and conservation-based organization in the province. A highly motivated team of fish and wildlife biologists and other professionals deliver conservation programming, government advocacy, and education and outreach on behalf of more than 100,000 OFAH members, subscribers and supporters, and 725 member clubs. The OFAH is proud to continue its legacy as the VOICE of anglers and hunters.