Woodlot to warm homes and hearts across the Highlands

By Jenn Watt

Trees once planted by Donald Sanderson will soon be heating the homes of many across the Highlands – perhaps even his relatives.

His son Michael Sanderson who now owns the property near Wilberforce is in the process of donating truckloads of wood harvested sustainably from the lot that has been in his family for 100 years.

The idea first came to him after he discovered that his uncle Ken had needed to access the Haliburton County Heat Bank last winter for firewood when the price of hydro put a strain on the budget.

He called John Teljeur one of the co-ordinators of the Heat Bank and discussed what he could do to help out with his 20-acre woodlot.

“I said have at it; that would keep a lot of families warm. On one condition: that my uncle never goes cold again” Sanderson says.

A Toronto resident Sanderson bought the property from the estate when his dad passed away in 2012. He visits the cottage regularly but hadn’t thought much about what to do with the forest he also now owned.

Through a mutual acquaintance Sanderson connected with Ernie Demuth a senior technician with the Bancroft Minden Forest Company and past president of the Bancroft Area Forest Industry Association.

“I got ahold of Michael and was just amazed at what this guy was willing to do for the Heat Bank” Demuth says.

“This is a really good opportunity to show some sustainable forest management while helping an amazing cause.”

Through BAFIA’s local wood initiative the land was assessed and trees marked to sustainably harvest firewood to be given to the Heat Bank. The process entails removing the trees that are diseased or dying – about one-third of the trees – and repeating the process every 25 years or so. The result is a stronger forest that gives plants room to grow and thrive.

Sanderson’s beech trees have beech bark disease Demuth says and managing the lot means taking out those trees with the disease.

“You can sustain a forest ecosystem at the same time and get the wood products that we all use” he says.

BAFIA VP and forestry technician with the Bancroft Minden Forest Company Virginia deCarle has been marking trees to be removed from Sanderson’s property.

“We want to make sure that during this process of him donating the firewood that’s coming from his property … it is done in a sustainable way through a selection system” she says.

She hopes that Sanderson’s efforts will encourage other landowners to consider donating some of their wood.

She likens the selection system to weeding a garden; the dying trees are removed to allow sunlight in to others.

The wood will be stored in depots across the county said Teljeur.

The Heat Bank helps about 100 families in the area in partnership with A Place Called Home which also intervenes when a client is being threatened with having hydro cut off.

Teljeur says he was touched by Sanderson’s donation and the connection he had to the wood he was donating.

“He’s paying back and paying forward at the same time” he says.

Ken Sanderson says he and his wife Nadeen aren’t in need of wood right now and he has told Michael to give the wood to others but he emphasizes how useful the program is.

“The Heat Bank had supplied us with 10 chords of wood and it’s a good program and I would certainly support it” Ken says.

Michael knows his father would approve of how his property is warming his family and neighbours through the winters.

“It would make a smile on my Dad’s face knowing the wood he helped harvest and plant and nurture in his forest was not only keeping his brother warm but keeping so many other seniors and people in need warm as well.”