Vegetation management, that is, the strategic thinning of trees in the forest to promote ecosystem restoration is a major concern of the SWCC. The CR is a protected area and to that end, a close watch is kept over the thousands of trees in the reserve. The ecosystems in the reserve range from the globally rare Oak Savanah to the Carolinian type of mixed forest. Periodically, sections of forest may be “logged”, however, this is the removal of undesirable species and diseased trees. It also opens the forest floor allowing for the growth of an understory. For any other purposes, it is illegal to remove trees from the conservation reserve.
Throughout the year the St Williams Community Council is involved in a wide variety of activities in the CR. The council meets monthly to discuss the needs of the CR and twice a year a meeting with the MNRF is held. Most of the work the SWCCR does is invisible to the public, yet the work is vital to the well being of the CR. Below, some of the critically important activities undertaken by the council during the year are outlined.
The council works with the MNRF to oversee the maintenance of trails and trail signage in the reserve, as well as helping to educate the public about proper trail usage. Keeping trails in good condition promotes the usage and enjoyment of the trail system and also helps keep visitors on the trail and prevents the creation of unauthorized trails that damage the forest and cause cascading problems with erosion, habitat loss, the introduction of invasive species, and non-compliance with motor vehicle laws.
Much of the day to day hands on trail maintenance is handled by local contractors. The council directs this work and several times a year holds work bees where council members and community volunteers help with large jobs.
Due to the amazing variety of flora and fauna in the reserve, it is a popular destination for researchers and scientists. The council works to facilitate the research applications to allow for these species to be studied.
At various times during the year, the council may assist local organizations by participating in nature and outdoor recreation themed events in the county. Emphasis is also placed on public education about the reserve and the cultural significance of both the reserve itself and the original Forestry Station, the first of it’s kind in Canada.
The council is a critical part of what makes the Conservation Reserve function and the responsibility of being a part of that is not taken lightly by any of the council members. Elections are held yearly at the Annual General Meeting to ensure that everyone is prepared to continue working in their positions for another year to oversee the well being of this very special part of Norfolk County.