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Skip Navigation LinksSimcoe County > Departments > Forestry > About the Simcoe County Forest

About the Simcoe County Forest

​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​The Simcoe County Forest is the largest and one of the most productive municipal forests in Ontario, totaling over 33,000 acres. Originally established to rehabilitate 'wastelands', these forests provide a multitude of environmental, social, and economic benefits to the County including protection of wildlife habitat and water resources, public education, recreation, scientific research and the production of wood products.​

​Forests are not static; long-range planning is vital to foresee trends and ensure that current strategies will deliver the right results.  A twenty-year management plan, Simcoe County Forests 2011-2030, describes the history and development of the Forest, its current state, and the strategies which will be employed to assure continued growth and success into the future.  In 2023, the management plan was revised in order to ensure the information was up to date, Forest Management Plan 2011-2030 Revised 2023​.​



Forest History Forest History <p>​<br></p><p><strong><em>Events Leading to Ontario's Former 'Agreement Forest' Program</em></strong></p><p>European settlement in Upper Canada in the early 1800's was originally driven by the exploitation of vast quantities of timber followed by unfettered clearing for agriculture. The removal of this extensive forest cover brought prosperity and settlement, but it also resulted in unforeseen problems. As early as the 1870's some farmers were recognizing the impacts including soil loss, headwater streams drying up, and unwelcome changes to the micro-climate.<br></p><p> <img src="/Forestry/PublishingImages/Pages/Forest%20History/Sand%20Dunes.jpg" alt="Sand Dunes.jpg" style="margin:5px;" /><span style="font-size:1em;"><em>Sand dunes near Simcoe / Dufferin border early 1900's</em></span><br></p><p><strong style="font-size:1em;"><em><br></em></strong></p><p><span style="font-size:1em;">Are</span><span style="font-size:1em;">as of sandy soil which had once supported productive forests could not sustain the agricultura</span><span style="font-size:1em;">l practices of the day. As soil nutrients became depleted and winds increased without tree protection, desertification began to take hold and vast areas identified as 'wastelands' were documented. Simcoe County was home to some of the most extensive 'wasteland</span><span style="font-size:1em;">s' in Ontario, particularly in the Angus and Orr Lake 'sand plains' and the Anten Mills area. </span><br></p><p><span style="font-size:1em;"><img src="/Forestry/PublishingImages/Pages/Forest%20History/E.C.%20Drury%20on%20Angus%20Plains%201906.jpg" alt="E.C. Drury on Angus Plains 1906.jpg" style="margin:5px;" /></span><span style="font-size:1em;"><em>E.C. Drury on Angus Plains 1906</em></span><span style="font-size:1em;"><br></span></p><p><strong><em><br></em></strong></p><p><strong><em>The First County Forest in Ontario Was Born</em></strong></p><p>Due primarily to the severity of the problem combined with political will, Simcoe County became the first municipality in Ontario to sign onto the 'Agreement Forest' program in 1920, whereby the County purchased land and the Provincial Department of Lands & Forests was responsible for tree planting and forest management. </p><img src="/Forestry/PublishingImages/Pages/Forest%20History/The%20first%20trees%20were%20planted%20in%20May%20of%201922%20in%20the%20Hendrie%20Tract%20in%20Vespra%20Township.jpg" alt="The first trees were planted in May of 1922 in the Hendrie Tract in Vespra Township.jpg" style="margin:5px;" /><span style="font-size:1em;"><em>The first trees were planted in May of 1922 in the Hendrie Tract in Vespra Township</em></span><p><strong><em><br></em></strong></p><p><strong><em>​</em></strong><span style="font-size:1em;">O</span><span style="font-size:1em;">ver the subsequent 3 decades the most devastated areas were the focus and much of the larger tracts were established including Hendrie, Waverley, Orr Lake, Tosorontio, Drury, Barr and Wildman.</span></p><p>By the 1950's, although the most extensive areas of wastelands had been addressed, acquisitions continued at a similar pace. Additions were typically 50 to 100 acres and more widely distributed with the focus still on forest restoration and expanding the land base. With a growing need to manage the established plantations, wood supply and economic viability became a more significant provincial objective.</p><img src="/Forestry/PublishingImages/Pages/Forest%20History/Sidney%20Cox,%20Caretaker%20of%20Hendrie%20Forest%20until%201955.jpg" alt="Sidney Cox, Caretaker of Hendrie Forest until 1955.jpg" style="margin:5px;" /><span style="font-size:1em;"><em>Sidney Cox, Caretaker of Hendrie Forest until 1955</em></span><p><strong><em><br></em></strong></p><p>With escalating land values, provincial grants became available in 1961 to encourage continued growth of the managed forest primarily to ensure a stable supply of fibre for industry. The 1970's saw a shift in focus to include more properties which included some natural forest cover.</p><p>In 1980, after 6 decades of investment in land acquisition, reforestation and forest management, revenues exceeded expenses for the first time. This encouraged some continued purchases by County Council. Provincial grants for land purchases were discontinued in 1991. In 1994, the total revenues from the sale of forest products exceeded the debt owed to the province.</p><p>1996 was a pivotal year for the Simcoe County Forest. Significant changes to the resources and mandate of the Ministry of Natural Resources culminated in a new agreement, whereby the County assumed full management responsibility. Policy was adopted which established the first <em>Land Acquisition Principles </em>and <em>Reforestation Reserve Fund</em>, which ensured that funds were available for continued management and additional land purchases. This formed the foundation, along with a very long-term commitment to science-based forest management practices, which has resulted in continued growth and success.<br><strong> </strong><br><strong> </strong></p><table cellspacing="0" width="100%" class="ms-rteTable-default"><tbody><tr><td class="ms-rteTable-default" style="width:16.6667%;"><strong>Decade</strong></td><td class="ms-rteTable-default" style="width:16.6667%;"><strong>Land Purchased</strong></td><td class="ms-rteTable-default" style="width:16.6667%;">​</td><td class="ms-rteTable-default" style="width:16.6667%;"><strong>Average Price</strong></td><td class="ms-rteTable-default" style="width:16.6667%;">​</td><td class="ms-rteTable-default" style="width:16.6667%;"><strong>Trees Planted</strong></td></tr><tr><td class="ms-rteTable-default">​</td><td class="ms-rteTable-default"><strong>Hectares</strong></td><td class="ms-rteTable-default"><strong>Acres</strong></td><td class="ms-rteTable-default"><strong>$/ha</strong></td><td class="ms-rteTable-default"><strong>$/acre</strong></td><td class="ms-rteTable-default">​</td></tr><tr><td class="ms-rteTable-default">1920 - 1929</td><td class="ms-rteTable-default">575</td><td class="ms-rteTable-default">1,420</td><td class="ms-rteTable-default">16.40</td><td class="ms-rteTable-default">6.64</td><td class="ms-rteTable-default">2,014,200</td></tr><tr><td class="ms-rteTable-default">1930 - 1939</td><td class="ms-rteTable-default">1,539</td><td class="ms-rteTable-default">3,800</td><td class="ms-rteTable-default">15.61</td><td class="ms-rteTable-default">6.32</td><td class="ms-rteTable-default">4,079,855</td></tr><tr><td class="ms-rteTable-default">1940 - 1949</td><td class="ms-rteTable-default">2,152</td><td class="ms-rteTable-default">5,314</td><td class="ms-rteTable-default">20.43</td><td class="ms-rteTable-default">8.27</td><td class="ms-rteTable-default">5,050,270</td></tr><tr><td class="ms-rteTable-default">1950 - 1959</td><td class="ms-rteTable-default">1,992</td><td class="ms-rteTable-default">4,919</td><td class="ms-rteTable-default">59.60</td><td class="ms-rteTable-default">24.13</td><td class="ms-rteTable-default">3,686,450</td></tr><tr><td class="ms-rteTable-default">1960 - 1969</td><td class="ms-rteTable-default">1,944</td><td class="ms-rteTable-default">4,800</td><td class="ms-rteTable-default">96.38</td><td class="ms-rteTable-default">39.02</td><td class="ms-rteTable-default">3,191,245</td></tr><tr><td class="ms-rteTable-default">1970 - 1979</td><td class="ms-rteTable-default">1,301</td><td class="ms-rteTable-default">3,213</td><td class="ms-rteTable-default">312.50</td><td class="ms-rteTable-default">126.52</td><td class="ms-rteTable-default">1,715,240</td></tr><tr><td class="ms-rteTable-default">1974<strong>*</strong></td><td class="ms-rteTable-default">1,428</td><td class="ms-rteTable-default">3,525</td><td class="ms-rteTable-default"> </td><td class="ms-rteTable-default"> </td><td class="ms-rteTable-default"> </td></tr><tr><td class="ms-rteTable-default">1980 - 1989</td><td class="ms-rteTable-default">208</td><td class="ms-rteTable-default">514</td><td class="ms-rteTable-default">1,217.41</td><td class="ms-rteTable-default">492.88</td><td class="ms-rteTable-default">406,350</td></tr><tr><td class="ms-rteTable-default">1990 - 1999</td><td class="ms-rteTable-default">488</td><td class="ms-rteTable-default">1,257</td><td class="ms-rteTable-default">1,537.08</td><td class="ms-rteTable-default">622.30</td><td class="ms-rteTable-default">49,400</td></tr><tr><td class="ms-rteTable-default">2000 - 2009</td><td class="ms-rteTable-default">1,076</td><td class="ms-rteTable-default">2,660</td><td class="ms-rteTable-default">8,236.17</td><td class="ms-rteTable-default">3,332.96</td><td class="ms-rteTable-default">47,600</td></tr><tr><td class="ms-rteTable-default">2010 - 2019</td><td class="ms-rteTable-default">859</td><td class="ms-rteTable-default">2,123</td><td class="ms-rteTable-default">8,333.51</td><td class="ms-rteTable-default">3,372.80</td><td class="ms-rteTable-default">555,625</td></tr></tbody></table><p> <strong>* The realignment of Simcoe County in 1974 resulted in the incorporation of forest tracts from the former 'Ontario County' in Ramara Township.</strong></p><p><strong><br></strong></p><p><strong><em>Provincial Perspective</em></strong></p><p style="text-align:left;">In 1982, 60 years following the inception of Ontario's Agreement Forest Program, it had grown to include:</p><ul><li>19 Counties</li><li>6 Regional Municipalities</li><li>10 Townships</li><li>22 Conservation Authorities</li><li>1 Federal Government Agency</li><li>1 Corporation</li></ul><p><br>Collectively these agreements totaled​ 107,000 hectares (272,000 acres), resulting in one of Canada's most successful forest restoration programs. Of all 59 agreements at this time, Simcoe County was the largest at 10,588 hectares (26,163 acres). <br><br> <br><strong><em>Simcoe County Forest Today</em></strong></p><p><strong><em></em></strong>Today, at 13,646 hectares (33,726 acres) and still growing, Simcoe County has significantly outpaced all former agreement holders in continued reinvestment and growth. With properties distributed across this vast County, the SCF is an excellent example of the benefits of sound forest management and long-term planning, providing tremendous environmental, social and economic benefits.</p><p><br> In 2022, Simcoe County celebrated one century of commitment and success, and was recognized as the National Forest Capital of Canada by the Canadian Institute of Forestry.<br><br>​<br></p><p><br></p>
Forest ManagementForest Management<p><img class="ms-rtePosition-2" alt="Man standing beside tractor" src="/Forestry/PublishingImages/forestryManagement.jpg" style="margin:5px 15px;" />In order to maintain forest health, improve timber values and achieve other objectives for the County Forests, approximately 500 to 600 hectares are thinned annually.  Each forest compartment identified in the operating plan is assessed by Forestry staff and if desirable a prescription is prepared identifying which trees should be removed.</p><p>Qualified tree markers identify trees to be removed with paint as per the prescription and each tree is assessed and tallied.  Generally only some of the trees in a forest are removed, usually those of poor quality or which are hampering the growth of better trees.  This is done in order to improve growth of the remaining trees and allow more light to reach the ground to stimulate forest regeneration.</p><p>Coniferous plantations are ready for the first thinning between the ages of 30 to 40 years; and are subsequently thinned approximately every 10 years.  Through natural succession, most coniferous plantations will convert to hardwood forests over time.</p><p>Hardwood stands containing merchantable products are usually thinned and selectively harvested at 15 to 20 year intervals.</p><p>The timber identified for removal is sold to the highest bidder, resulting in revenues which are reinvested in forestry operations and the acquisition of additional forest lands.  Further, much of the timber is processed locally which contributes to the local economy.<br><br></p>
Forest Stewardship Council® CertificationForest Stewardship Council® Certification<p>​​​​​​​​The <a href="https://ic.fsc.org/en" target="_blank">Forest Stewardship Council</a>® (FSC®) is an international certification and labelling system dedicated to promoting responsible management of the world's forests.  This means that forests are evaluated to meet FSC's strict environmental and social standards.</p><p>The County of Simcoe first received FSC certification in July 2010.  To remain certified,  the Simcoe County Forest and forest management operations are audited annually.  Further to annual audits, a full certification reassessment is required at five-year intervals.  FSC certification also requires the identification of any High Conservation Value (HCV) within the Simcoe County Forest.</p><p>The most recent reports are available below:​​<br></p><p><a href="/Forestry/Documents/Simcoe%20County%20FSC%20FM%20reassess%2020_public%20(1).pdf" target="_blank">Five-year Certification Reassessment</a>​​​​​​​​​​<br></p><p><a href="/Forestry/Documents/Simcoe%20County%20Forest%20High%20Conservation%20Value%20Report.pdf">High Conservation Valu​e Report</a>​<br></p><p></p><ul><li>​<a href="https://gisportal.simcoe.ca/arcgis/apps/instant/minimalist/index.html?appid=c10048c839e74cbc95a62e5397bbf1cc">High Conservation Value ​Mapping</a>​​</li></ul><br><p></p><p>​​​<br></p><p style="text-align:right;"><br></p><p style="text-align:center;"><img class="ms-rteImage-0 ms-rtePosition-3" src="/Forestry/PublishingImages/FSC%20Promotional%20Panel.jpeg" alt="" style="margin:15px 20px;width:219px;height:324px;" /> </p><div><br>​<br><br></div>
Habitat RestorationHabitat Restoration<h1 class="title">​​​​Museum Tract - Forest and Habitat Restoration Project<br></h1><p>​​<span style="font-size:1em;">B</span><span style="font-size:1em;">eginning in 2017, the County of Simcoe embarked on a unique habitat creation and forest restoration project.  The project aimed to ​​​​establish 130 acres of early successional pine-oak forest.  This habitat is crucial for the Kirtland's Warbler, which is a globally endangered migratory bird that used to call Simcoe County home.  Creating habitat for the Kirtland's War​bler has been an international effort but this project is the first of its kind in Canada and further demonstrates the County's strong commitment to forestry and habitat stewardship.</span></p><div class="ms-rtestate-read ms-rte-embedcode ms-rte-embedil ms-rtestate-notify s4-wpActive" unselectable="on"><iframe title="Forest and habitat restoration project" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/Ht8kQB1Qvu8" width="560" height="315" frameborder="0"></iframe> </div><p>​<br> </p><p><img class="ms-rtePosition-2" alt="sIMCOE COUNTY FOREST MUSEUM TRACT" src="/Forestry/PublishingImages/Pages/kirtlands-warbler/WillCoxForest60.jpg?RenditionID=11" style="margin:5px;" />The restoration site was a former aggregate pit which is part of the Museum Tract of the Simcoe County Forest. The County of Simcoe has a long history of reinvestment of revenues from forest management back into forestry projects such as property acquisitions.  The 300 acre property was an acquisition purchased in 1999.   Prior to the County acquiring this property, it was owned by CP Rail and formerly used for the extraction of sand and gravel to build rail beds. The existing condition was dry and degraded, consisting primarily of scattered non-native trees and shrubs.  Restoration of the site involved removal of non-native plant and tree species, significant site grading, site preparation for planting including a controlled burn, planting of over 85 species of native shrubs, herbs, grasses and wildflowers and planting over 150,000 tree seedlings.   Although the main focus of the project was to establish an early pine-oak successional forest habitat suitable Kirtland's Warbler this habitat type is regionally rare yet important for many other common and rare fauna.<br></p><p><strong>​Partner Organizations:</strong></p><p>County staff worked with leading experts from the Canadian Wildlife Service (CWS) and GEI ​Consultants to complete the project.  Funding partners included the Government of Canada through the Habitat Stewardship Program, American Forests and Forests Ontario with in-kind funding from GEI Consultants and Mary Gartshore Consulting.  Additional in-kind support was also provided through the County of Simcoe Forestry, Roads and Solid Waste Management Departments.</p><p><strong>About the Kirtland's Warbler:</strong></p><p><img class="ms-rtePosition-3" alt="A image of a Kirtland's Warbler resting on a branch " src="/Forestry/PublishingImages/Pages/kirtlands-warbler/KIWA_Pelee_BHolden.jpg?RenditionID=11" style="margin:5px;width:259px;" /><img class="ms-rtePosition-3" alt="An image of a Kirtland's Warbler " src="/Forestry/PublishingImages/Pages/kirtlands-warbler/5815954031_3e255a975e_o.jpg?RenditionID=11" style="margin:5px;width:256px;" />                </p><p>The Kirtland's Warbler is a globally rare and endangered migratory bird which was nearly extinct 50 years ago, but has since begun to recover due to multiple habitat projects in North American and abroad. Overwintering occurs in the Bahamas while its summer breeding grounds are historically within Michigan, Wisconsin and Ontario.  Kirtland's Warbler requires large tracts of young, dense forest of primarily jack or red pine for its nesting habitat, which was probably commonplace within Simcoe County prior to European settlement, land conversion and fire suppression. Suitable habitat also existed in the mid 1900's due to the significant levels of reforestation which occurred at that time.</p><p>The Canadian Wildlife Service (CWS), working with GEI Consultants, has been investigating opportunities within Canada to create appropriate nesting habitat to expand recovery efforts. As Kirtland's Warbler was historically known to nest within Simcoe County, Forestry staff were approached in 2016 to explore the potential for habitat creation within the Simcoe County Forest. In consultation with the subject matter experts with CWS and GEI, Simcoe County staff have assessed the County Forest for the potential to incorporate early successional pine-oak forest and identified an opportunity at the Museum Tract in 2017.<br></p><p><br></p><h1 class="title">Packard Tract - Forest and Habitat Restoration Project<div><div class="addthis_native_toolbox"></div></div></h1><div><div aria-labelledby="ctl00_PlaceHolderMain_ctl04_label" style="display:inline;"><p>​​​​​In 2018, 105 acre parcel was acquired as an addition to the Simcoe County Forest 'Packard Tract' in the Township of Essa.  An assessment of the property identified opportunities to substantially enhance planned forest restoration to include habitat creation for the endangered Kirtland's Warbler.<span style="font-size:1em;"> ​​</span></p><p>The restoration and habitat creation project began in fall of 2019 with the removal of non-native Scot's pine and Norway spruce and the removal of some marginal red and white pine on approximately 15 acres of the property.  Site preparation using a controlled burn and other mechanical equipment was completed in 2020.  This was followed up in spring 2021 with the planting of approximately 28,500 native trees and the seeding of approximately 75 different native shrubs, grasses, herbs and wildflowers.<br></p><p><img src="/Forestry/PublishingImages/Pages/Packard-Tract/Acorn%20planting%20central%20plantation.JPG" alt="Acorn planting central plantation.JPG" style="margin:5px;" /><br></p><p><span style="font-size:1em;">On J</span><span style="font-size:1em;">u</span><span style="font-size:1em;">ne 9, 2022, the </span><span style="font-size:1em;">r</span><span style="font-size:1em;">estoration team confirmed that no fewer than four male Kirtland's Warbler's were now using some areas of the restoration​ site at the Packard Tract.  It was also confirmed that there was at least one female on the site and it is anticipated that the species is now breeding in it's new home.​​</span></p><p><span style="font-size:1em;">The County of Simcoe Forestry Department completed the project with funding from Ganawenim Meshkiki through the Eastern Georgian Bay Initiative.  The County of Simcoe also partnered with the Nottawasaga Valley Conservation Authority and the Ontario Heritage Trust to complete forest restoration and habitat creation work on an adjacent property owned and managed by these partners. </span><br></p><p>The Packard Tract is located at 8398, 9<sup>th</sup> Line Essa.  The project area is approximately 145 acres in total.  <br></p><p><img src="/Forestry/PublishingImages/Pages/Packard-Tract/Packard%20from%20above%20(12).JPG" alt="Packard from above (12).JPG" style="margin:5px;" />​<br></p><p>This project was the second project of its kind in Canada (the first was in the Simcoe County Forest Museum Tract) and is part of an international effort to create habitat for Kirtland's Warbler, an endangered song bird.  This species relies on large tracts (100+ acres) of early pine-oak successional forest.  In addition to creating early successional pine-oak forest for this rare bird, this regionally uncommon habitat type will benefit numerous other wildlife species.  ​<br></p></div></div><p><br><br></p>