DRYDEN – CLIMATE – Wanda Mitchell was always involved with woodlands in one way or another. While she was growing up, she would occasionally accompany her father, a logger, to work on Hartman Township’s Turkey Trail woodlots. Wanda was fascinated by the logging crew, and the horses (which were still used at the time to skid wood). She was sometimes put to work scaling wood – determining the best use of logs according to size, species, and quality.
As an adult, Wanda worked with stained glass before building a successful career in real estate. Her late husband, Bob, was a forester with a passion for tree planting and reforestation. He taught forestry at Dryden High School and was a published author on the subjects of logging and tree disease. Wanda loved being ‘in the bush,’ and often visited her husband at work, helping out with clearing and burning.
In 1973, Wanda and Bob purchased her childhood home – a farm in Dryden, Ontario. Following Bob’s passing, a logger approached Wanda about cutting down a large stand of 100-year-old pine trees on the property. Wanda explains, “I told them I’d lost my husband—not my mind! Those beautiful, old white and red pines were worth more to me than anything else on that land.”
The farm had not been a ‘working farm’ for several years, and cold weather had left the fields unsuited for agriculture. While listening to the radio one day, she heard forester Peter Gagnon speaking about the government of Ontario’s 50 Million Tree Program (50 MTP), and Wanda became “hooked on the idea” of planting trees. The 50 MTP reduces the cost of large-scale tree planting for Ontario landowners, thereby increasing the number of trees planted throughout the province. Wanting to put the property to good use once more, the tree-enthusiast concluded that “trees were the perfect answer”.
Wanda worked with Gary McKibbon, of G.M. McKibbon Forestry Services, to devise a plan for the property. They decided on planting native species like Red pine, White spruce, Jack pine and Black spruce trees – more than 15,000 in total. The planting took place over three years in the springs of 2015, 2016 and 2017, focusing on different areas of the land for each project.
“Wanda Mitchell’s efforts are setting a positive example for landowners,” said Nathalie Des Rosiers, Minister of Natural Resources and Forestry. “I commend her for the work she is doing to fight climate change by increasing our province’s tree-cover through Ontario’s 50 Million Tree Program.”
Wanda has been awarded the status of ‘Green Leader’ by Forests Ontario. Green Leaders are individuals who have made a dedicated and lasting commitment to re-greening the province via the 50 MTP. “The trees on Wanda’s property will help to combat climate change, increase forest cover, and create habitat for animals and pollinators,” explained Rob Keen, Forests Ontario’s CEO. “We are truly proud to recognize her as the newest Green Leader.”