There’s one department overseen by the County of Simcoe that doesn’t cost taxpayers a dime – and this year, they brought in big money.
The summer 2019 timber sales report came before Simcoe County council last week, showing the county raked in $782,355 from the sales of their surplus timber.
The money will go toward fully funding the forestry department’s operations for another year, with leftovers to go into reserves earmarked for future forest expansion acquisition costs.
“The forestry department is unique in that sense,” said Graeme Davis, a forester with the county. “It’s a somewhat unique model even beyond Simcoe County.
“Forestry is a long-term business. We take a long-term view here. We’re like a self-contained business unit,” he added.
Approximately 1,000 hectares of the county forests are inventoried annually. Staff determines which trees should be sold for timber. They may also recommend other treatments, including tree planting, invasive species control, controlled burning or pre-commercial thinning.
When commercial timber harvesting is recommended by staff, trees are marked and tallied and volume is estimated in order to provide detailed information to prospective buyers. The standing timber is then sold to the highest bidder. Timber sales encompass approximately 600 to 700 hectares annually, which is generally divided into 25 to 40 individual sales.
“We assess for multiple factors before making decisions on moving forward,” said Davis. “It’s wonderful that the program continues to pay for itself. It’s tremendous that we can continue to expand the forests. Simcoe County’s model is unmatched anywhere in Ontario.”
The Simcoe County Forests were first planted in 1922 and were managed by the Ministry of Natural Resources.
According to Davis, it took until the 1980s until they started operating as revenue-neutral.
“It started to pay for itself,” he said.
In 1996, the county took on the management of the Simcoe County Forests. Since its inception, more than 20 million trees have been planted to replenish the land.
Davis said the forests are already self-sustaining in terms of growth, and therefore don’t require replanting to make up for the trees that are cut.
“They’re designed quite specifically to be thinned out over time,” he said. “In most cases, we’re working with natural regeneration.”
The county forestry department acquires new land every year to expand the forests.
The department obtained two new land parcels to expand the forests this year: one is 44 acres adjacent to the Wildman Tract in Tiny Township, the other is 88 acres adjacent to the Orr Lake Tract in Springwater Township.
“We have fairly tight criteria we look for, such as our Official Plan, looking at how to enhance the natural corridors,” said Davis.
Over the last decade, Davis estimates the county obtained an additional 3,000 acres of forest.
From Sept. 23 to 27, the County of Simcoe is celebrating National Forestry Week. As part of the county’s celebration, they’ll be opening the Red Pine House: Forestry Education Centre, located on the Simcoe County Museum property that will house exhibits relating to the history of the Simcoe County Forests.
The grand opening of the new exhibit will take place on Sept. 24 at 1 p.m., with an open house for the public from 6 to 8 p.m.
For more information on Simcoe County Forests and the forestry department of the County of Simcoe, click here.