The County of Simcoe is embarking on a unique forest restoration project and joining an international effort to reintroduce the Kirtland's Warbler, a globally endangered migratory bird, to its natural range in Simcoe County. This is the first project of its kind in Canada and further demonstrates the County's strong commitment to forestry and habitat stewardship.
A former gravel pit area at the Simcoe County Forest Museum Tract located in Springwater Township will be restored. Prior to the County acquiring this property in 1999 it was owned by CP Rail and formerly used for the extraction of sand and gravel to build rail beds. The existing condition is dry and degraded, consisting primarily of scattered non-native trees and shrubs. Restoration will include the establishment of diverse, native species including the planting of over 160,000 trees. One of the specific goals is to establish suitable Kirtland's Warbler nesting habitat by approximately 2023, however this habitat type is important for many other common and rare fauna.
Key project objectives:
- Forest Restoration: A degraded area of the Museum Tract (approximately 100 acres) will be restored by removing existing vegetation (largely non-native/exotic plants) and re-establishing native plants and trees
- Habitat Creation: Working with the Canadian Wildlife Service and other partners, the County will join an international effort to restore habitat for the Kirtland's Warbler, a globally endangered migratory bird, to its natural range. The Kirtland's Warbler was known historically to nest within Simcoe County but no longer has the appropriate habitat to do so. Many other flora and fauna will also benefit.
- Awareness and Education: Public awareness of the importance of various forest habitats will be enhanced, and educational opportunities through Museum programming, particularly through the future Forestry Interpretive Centre, will be improved.
Anticipated project timeline and scope:
Work will commence in fall 2017 with anticipated completion in 2020. The site should provide suitable habitat for Kirtland's Warbler to nest between approximately 2023 to 2040. The site will not be closed during the restoration activities except when there are potential safety hazards.
- Fall 2017 – Site work will begin to remove existing trees and other exotic vegetation
- 2018 – A controlled burn is planned to reduce debris and prepare the site and soils for seeding and planting. Additional work will include the ongoing control of non-native vegetation
- 2019 – Tree planting, groundcover restoration
- 2020 – Project completion. Ongoing site monitoring and management
- 2023-2040 – Suitable Kirtland's Warbler Habitat created
- Longer term – Museum Tract project area restored as a healthy native ecosystem and important wildlife habitat, continued Museum programming and public access through the trail network
Impact on residents and Simcoe County Museum:
Portions of the site may be briefly and periodically closed between late 2017 and 2018 as work occurs, however no impact to Museum programming will occur. Any closures will be minimal and will only occur when there are potential safety concerns. Nearby residents may hear some residual equipment noise during regular weekday work hours, however most residential structures are greater than 200 metres away with a forest buffer between.
In 2018, there is expected to be a controlled burn completed (subject to weather and site conditions) by an experienced fire consulting company. A detailed communications plan will ensure notification of all stakeholders, residents and media of the potential burn.
Current recreational activities on the broader property will not be impacted, however minor trail rerouting may be required to protect sensitive areas.
The total estimated cost to complete this project over three years is $340,800 including in-kind contributions and funding. The Government of Canada, through Environment and Climate Change Canada's Habitat Stewardship Program for Species at Risk (HSP), has approved $167,950 in funding for the 3 year project. $30,000 (USD) has also been committed from American Forests, a not-for-profit conservation organization which has contributed to forest and habitat restoration projects for over 140 years. $58,300 is currently allocated from the forestry reserve, however the County continues to discuss partnership and funding opportunities with other organizations.
The County has been working with leading experts from the Canadian Wildlife Service (CWS), Savanta Environmental Consultants (who specialize in Kirtland's Warbler habitat) and has received funding from the MOECC and American Forests. Due to the significance of this project as a first of its kind in Canada, additional partnerships may emerge as the project advances over the coming years. Simcoe County Forestry is working closely with the Simcoe County Museum as well as Simcoe County Historical Construction Equipment Association to minimize impacts and ensure mutual benefits. Additional in-kind support is also being provided through the County of Simcoe Roads and Solid Waste Management Departments.
About the Kirtland's Warbler:
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 Lucayan Archipelago (Bahamas, Turk's & Caicos) while its summer breeding grounds are historically within Michigan, Wisconsin and Ontario. Kirtland's Warbler requires large tracts of young, dense conifer forest 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.
The Canadian Wildlife Service (CWS), working with Savanta Environmental Consultants, has been investigating opportunities within Canada to create appropriate nesting habitat to expand recovery efforts. As it was known historically 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 Savanta, staff have assessed the County Forest for the potential to incorporate Kirtland's habitat and identified the Museum Tract as the best opportunity.