‘Dramatic’ forest and habitat restoration underway in Springwater
by Shane MacDonald Barrie Advance
The County of Simcoe is undertaking a significant forest and habitat restoration project in the Township of Springwater, but it will look a little more like destruction than restoration at first.
In late October the first steps of the project were underway — cutting down trees.
“This is going to be dramatic,” Graeme Davis, County of Simcoe forester, said while a mechanical excavator made quick work of trees at the project site — cutting them at the bottom of their trunks, lifting them in the air, quickly pruning them of their branches, and cutting them into sectioned logs.
The project site is located in the Museum Tract of the Simcoe County Forests, a former CP Rail gravel pit. Existing vegetation, mostly non-native, will be removed and approximately 160,000 native trees will be planted to take their place. The hope is the restoration project will help create habitat for the Kirtland’s warbler, a rare migratory bird that has been endangered since 1978.
“In Canada, this is the first project geared to Kirtland habitat restoration,” Davis said.
County to restore forest and habitat area in Springwater
Simcoe County news release September 24 2017
As the County celebrates National Forest Week (September 24-30), Simcoe County Forests is pleased to announce it is undertaking a significant forest and habitat restoration project in Springwater Township starting fall 2017.
The project involves restoration of a degraded area of the Museum Tract, which includes a decommissioned gravel pit formerly owned and operated by CP Rail. The restoration will involve the removal of existing vegetation (largely non-native/exotic plants and trees) and re-planting of approximately 160,000 native trees. In addition to the significant tree planting effort, the site will be over-seeded with a mix of native plant and shrub seeds to establish a diverse groundcover. As part of the habitat restoration piece, the County will be joining an international recovery effort for the Kirtland’s Warbler, a globally endangered and rare migratory bird.
“This is a first of its kind project in Canada and further demonstrates our County’s strong commitment to our forests, wildlife and habitat,” said Warden Gerry Marshall. “This project will serve as an important environmental legacy initiative for years to come, while the restored forest will bring multiple benefits to County residents, local tourism, recreational groups and support Simcoe County Museum programs.”
Work on the tract will commence in fall 2017 with anticipated completion in 2020. Activities will include tree clearing and a controlled burn followed by replanting of native trees and over-seeding of native plants and shrubs. Once restoration and tree planting is complete, the tract should provide suitable habitat for Kirtland’s Warbler to nest between 2023 to 2040. Although Kirtland’s Warbler is the keystone species of the project, this regionally uncommon habitat type is important to many other species including many within Ontario considered threatened or of special concern.
About the Kirtland’s Warbler Habitat Restoration Initiative
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 of the Kirtland’s Warbler. 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 numerous County Forest properties for the potential to incorporate Kirtland’s habitat and identified the Museum Tract as the best opportunity.
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 the USA 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 commonplace within Simcoe County prior to European settlement and again during the significant reforestation efforts of the early to mid 1900’s. However, continued land use conversion and fire suppression has largely eliminated the habitat type used by the bird within much of its native range.
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.
About the Simcoe County Forest
At approximately 33,000 acres and growing, the Simcoe County Forest is the largest municipally-owned forest in Ontario and among the largest of its kind in Canada. Through our forestry program, and in partnership with local organizations, more than 20 million trees have been planted within the County Forest since inception. The Simcoe County Forest is owned and managed by the County of Simcoe and is not Crown Land.
The County of Simcoe is certified for Forest Stewardship Council® (FSC®) forest management by the Rainforest Alliance (FSC C013174), meeting the FSC’s strict environmental and social standards.