The Edward Bonner Tree Improvement Centre near Moonbeam, Ontario, in the heart of the great northern clay belt, was originally established in 1948 as a tree nursery to produce seedlings for the purpose of general boreal forest regeneration in harvested sites. Since 1952, genetic tree improvement programs have also been underway at the site.
Covering 503 hectares, the Bonner Centre now encompasses seed production areas, seedling seed orchards, super-seedling plantations, and clonal archives, all of which contribute to the improvement of tree growth and fiber quality. The entire facility is situated on a glacial esker (a ridge of sand composed of sand and rock deposits from an ancient glacial Over).
The Bonner Centre was once actually used as a potato farm, Spruce Falls Power and Paper Company Limited (now Tembec Inc.) purchased the land in 1948. Spruce Falls gave the area to the Ontario government in 1976, when the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources (OMNR) assumed forest regeneration responsibilities. The facility was given its name in recognition of Edward Bonner, a former chief forester for Spruce Falls who was largely responsible for its creation.
In the mid 1990's, budget and staffing cutbacks at OMNR led to a hiatus in funding to, and maintenance of the Centre. Although the land is still owned by the Crown, the Forestry Research Partnership, which includes Tembec, the Canadian Forest Service, the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources, and the Canadian Ecology Centre has taken over management of the entire complex, including the near priceless value manifest in over a half century of boreal forest regeneration history.