As destructive forest fires rage on across much of Australia, thoughts here may turn to a more local wooded area.
The Simcoe County Forest is the largest and one of the most productive municipal forests in Ontario, totaling over 33,000 acres. Much of that falls under the watchful eye of Graeme Davis, County Forester. He and others within the County’s Forestry department are tasked with keeping the forest healthy. That generally involves plenty of planning ahead, to avoid any devastating fires like those seen in Australia.
“It’s important to note that it is a very different situation here in Simcoe County,” says Davis, “we have different forest types here, our climate is different, and we also have different land-use patterns that tend to break things up, so to speak, so we don’t have situations where a fire gets out of hand like in Australia.”
“The biggest difference here is we generally don’t have large areas of almost pure coniferous forest because those are the situations where you can really get yourself into trouble.” Davis points out the County’s forests weren’t always as protected; in the early decades of its existence, there was a considerable amount of barren agricultural land, with plenty of work installing fire breaks and making sure adequate fire responses were in place.
“Not to say it is not a concern; we certainly do think about it, it’s something we think about in our planning process and how our plantations are designed.”
Davis points out that authorities in Australia would have taken similar steps to prevent fires, but “there are different parts of the world, in different zones and climates, that are much more conducive to fire,” says Davis, “part of what’s going on in Australia, there are a lot of folks thinking there are links to climate change, they’ve been dealing with severe drought conditions there for a number of years, and of course dealing with the specific conditions they’ve got right now that have added on to that…have made for an almost explosive situation in Australia right now.”