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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.

The Simcoe County Forest began in 1922 restoring wastelands through reforestation and celebrated its 90th anniversary of "excellence in forestry in 2012."  A short film details the history of the Simcoe County Forest.

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.  



Forest History Forest History <h2></h2><h3>History 1919 - 1948 </h3><p>In the early 1800's, much of Simcoe County was covered with valuable forests of both softwood and hardwood species.  The first timber barons saw the forest as a nearly inexhaustible supply of timber, while the early settlers saw the forests as an impediment to farming and vast areas were cleared and burned.  For a hundred years the forests of Simcoe County fell to the lumberjack's axe with no thought of conservation for tomorrow. The slash from logging was left to burn and re-burn, destroying the soil until nothing was left but barren plain. "I can remember the night skies red with such fires - at Midhurst and Anten Mills and Orr Lake," said E. C. Drury, a long-time resident and community leader of Simcoe County.  By the early 1900's there was little timber left to cut in Simcoe County and the once richly forested areas had become virtual wastelands.</p><p>When he became Premier of Ontario in 1919, Drury was instrumental in establishing the "Agreement Forest" program. Local governments purchased lands and turned them over to the Ontario Department of Lands and Forests for protection and forestry development. Appropriately, Simcoe County was the first to take advantage of this program. On May 8, 1922 the first trees were planted at the "Hendrie" tract in Vespra township. From 1922 to 1927 a total of 1,344,600 trees were planted at Hendrie and today it remains a lasting testimonial to the foresight of those early pioneers in forestry.</p><p>In the next 20 years the Simcoe County Forests (SCF) were expanded with the purchase of similar "barren lands". The tracts of Orr Lake, Waverley, Tosorontio, Drury, Barr and Wildman were reforested with the planting of another 10,000,000 trees. Most of these lands had been so devastated by fire, drought and wind that they were virtually deserts. As these new forests grew they stabilized the blowing sand and started the process of rehabilitation. </p><p>By 1948, a short 26 years after the first tree planting, most of the barren lands had been reforested with healthy pine and spruce plantations. The first thinning of these forest plantations were done at Hendrie and Orr Lake to relieve overcrowding, and as a result the Simcoe County Forests even began to generate some revenue.</p><h3>History 1949 - 2004</h3><p>In the 1950s land prices tripled from previous decades to almost $25 per acre but the effort of buying and planting new forests continued. Even though the urgency to stabilize the barren lands had abated, the County Forests were seen as a valuable asset with numerous benefits to the County and Ontario:</p><ul style="list-style-type:disc;"><li><p>To restore waste lands and abandoned farm lands to productive use</p></li><li><p>To prevent soil erosion and restore and conserve water resources</p></li><li><p>To manage forests in a scientific manner to produce the best growth</p></li><li><p>To  preserve, conserve and improve wildlife habitat</p></li><li><p>To provide educational opportunities and encourage scientific research</p></li><li><p>To encourage private landowners in their reforestation efforts</p></li><li><p>To  make the forests available for public recreation</p></li></ul><p>In 1960 the Province recognized the continued increase in land prices and began to make grants to municipalities to assist in buying land for forestry purposes. Through the 1960s and 1970s the County continued to buy land, but rather than exclusively purchasing barren land, the majority of purchases included naturally forested lands. Today, over ½ of the County Forests are made up of natural forests rather than plantations.</p><p>The 1960s were also a time of forestry expansion on private lands. A few member municipalities along with the Department of Lands and Forests were the first to encourage land owners to plant trees in a trial program that led to the introduction of the "Woodlands Improvement Act". Over a 25 year period starting in 1966 over 40,000,000 trees were planted on privately owned land in Simcoe County because of financial assistance from the Province and a growing resident awareness of the value and beauty of trees as exemplified by the County Forests. In 1967, Canada's centennial year, over 20,000 trees were planted by school children all over the County.</p><p>In 1974, the townships of Rama and Mara became part of Simcoe County and with them another 3,525 acres of the former Ontario County Forest were added to the Simcoe County Forests.</p><p>After 1982, the grants from the Ministry of Natural Resources (formerly the Department of Lands and Forests) to buy land began to decline and in 1991 grants were stopped. In the 1980s only 514 acres of land were purchased but the forests had matured to the point that revenue from the sale of forest products was exceeding expenses and by 1994 the debt to the Province was fully paid. In 1996 the County signed a new management agreement with the Ministry of Natural Resources and established its own forestry department.</p><p>Simcoe County Forests are now entering a new era. The "barren lands" of the 1920s, 1930s and 1940s are now healthy forests providing homes for wildlife, wood for the forest industry, recreation to hikers, hunters, naturalists and many more.</p><p>Seventy-five years is a moment in time in the life of a forest. It is everyone's responsibility to protect the forests of Simcoe County so that in years to come there will still be places to experience the natural beauty and the wondrous sounds and silence of a forest. As Premier Drury stated after having a County Forest Tract dedicated to him, "I would rather have this for a monument than a statue in Queen's Park."</p><h3>County Forests Today </h3><p>At over 33,000 acres and still growing, the Simcoe County Forest is now the largest municipally-owned forest in Southern Ontario.  Tracts range in size from 7 to over 3,500 acres and are distributed throughout the County.</p><p>The most common coniferous species include red and white pine, white spruce, hemlock, balsam fir and white cedar. Common deciduous species include sugar maple, red oak, trembling and large toothed aspen, American beech, white ash and black cherry.</p><p>Only about 50% of the SCF are coniferous plantations with the remainder naturally regenerated forests of mixed species. Trees vary in age from newly germinated and planted seedlings to over 300 year old specimens of hemlock and white cedar.</p><p>The SCF is an excellent example of the benefits of good forest management, providing tremendous environmental, social and economic benefits to County residents.  The SCF is completely self-funded through the strategic reinvestment of revenues.</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:</p><p><a href="/Forestry/Documents/Simcoe%20County%20FSC%20FM%20Annual%20Report%2021%20Public.pdf" target="_blank">Annual FSC Audit</a><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/HCV%20Summary%20SCF_June2020.pdf" target="_blank">High Conservation Value Summary</a>​​<br><br></p><p style="text-align:right;"><img class="ms-rtePosition-2" src="/Forestry/PublishingImages/rac_seal_green%20625.GIF" alt="" style="margin:15px 20px;width:290px;" /><img class="ms-rteImage-0 ms-rtePosition-1" src="/Forestry/PublishingImages/FSC%20Promotional%20Panel.jpeg" alt="" style="margin:15px 20px;width:219px;height:324px;" /> </p><p> </p><p> </p><p> </p><p> </p><p> </p><p> </p><p> </p><p> </p><p> </p><p> </p>